September 10, 2015:   “To expect someone to succeed without providing them the proper tools and training on how to use the tools, is essentially assisting them in failing,” said Pastor Keith Hackle, as he presented the Change Center to his community. He is pastor of the Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Martin Luther King Park neighborhood on the east side of Des Moines, Iowa. It is an historically African American congregation in a low income, urban area.

The center provides a program for youth ages 9 to 15 in the neighborhood that integrates healthful living with youth empowerment. The approach was first tested in Benton Harbor, Michigan, near Andrews University. Kimberley Francisque, the program director, has moved from Michigan to Des Moines with her husband, Estapha, to develop the new project.

In the summer the teens work in a community garden, learning to grow vegetables for their families and other local residents. After the harvest, they learn to cook recipes that use the crops they grew. Environmental care is also part of the curriculum as they learn to do composting and conserve water use.

During the fall and winter there are classes on finances, job skills, nutrition, social abilities and physical fitness. Cooking classes teach the teens to make healthy meals and the finance classes prepare them for entrepreneurial opportunities. A fitness room provides equipment for exercise and fun.

The center is open from 4 to 6 pm Mondays through Thursdays. Many businesses and nonprofit organizations help with various activities through community partnerships. The center hopes to be a “fulcrum for change” in the neighborhood as well as in the lives of young people, Hackle stated.

More information is available on the Web at https://thedsmchangecenter.org and readers can communicate directly with Pastor Hackle by email at dsmchangecenter@gmail.com.