gracehouse 300MADISONVILLE, Ky. (8/16/13) – Collaboration between a preacher and a district judge has inspired a grassroots initiative offering support to troubled teens. The program will be launched in September.
 
Grace Warehouse Pastor Gary Bennett and Hopkins District Judge Bill Whitledge merged their ideas into one to form the staging ground of the "RECOVER ALL" program as a faith-based, court-referral program to offer some teens an opportunity to avoid juvenile detention.
 
Bennett pitched the concept to an audience of about 50 people comprised of members of the community, juvenile justice, the local court system and court designated workers recently during a dinner at the church.
 
He told the audience that prosecutors will have the option to recommend the six-week program as an option to going before the judge if they believe the program would offer hope for the teen. Once accepted into the program, parents/guardians and the teens must sign a contract with the church to complete the program. Not every teen would be recommended for the program, he said.
 
According to Bennett, he and Whitledge had a chance meeting at a Hopkins County Central High School event in May and put their heads together.
 
"When I saw Bill, I said, 'I want to talk to you about something,'" said Bennett. "He said, 'Well, good, because I've got you at the top of my list of people I am wanting to talk to about something.'"
 
Bennett said Whitledge and he shared their thoughts about faith-based programs for teens, ideas for which had coincided with each other. After that meeting, Bennett brought the matter before the church and has received its support for the teen ministry program.
 
There are more than 120 young people attending the Grace Warehouse on Wednesday nights, where they share food, games and fellowship, said Bennett. Several adult volunteers cook Wednesday night meals and offer supervision and guidance about Christian love during the evening. Bennett also preaches to them.
 
The six-week program will provide structure for teens in a Christian environment. While parents must commit to bringing their teens to the church for the program, parents and teens won't be in the classes together. Still, Bennet hopes that parents will stay and be a part of their own groups.
 
Each week will be filled with activities each night.
 
"There will be classes and mentoring and Sunday church attendance will be required," said Bennet. "There will be someone around these kids every day. Our young people here will embrace them. There are no clicks here. They won't be labeled either."
 
Bennet said his research shows that it costs as much as $15,000 to house a teenager, who has broken the law, at the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Bowling Green. That money could be saved if the judicial center gave some of those teens the opportunity to be involved in the church program, he said.
 
A larger facility is needed to help offer supervised activities at the church, said Bennet, and, he made his appeal for donations from those attending the meeting as well as a challenge for people who would like to invest in providing a safe haven for troubled teens.
 
To donate, send to: Grace Warehouse Church, 2206 S. Main St., Madisonville, KY, 42431.
 
Rita Dukes Smith
SurfKY News

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