Lighthouse Ministries has been serving the youth of Southeast Canton since 1996. We provide a safe place for neighborhood children to learn and grow through after-school programs, ministry clubs, summer activities and acts of service. Below is the story of our history as well as our hopes for the future.
In 1995, one person shared the dream to put in a basketball court adjacent to First Mennonite Church and replace the brick and dirt parking area with concrete and a set of hoops for the neighborhood children to play. Adjacent to the court stood a shed which was renovated to became a teen center--reminiscent of a time some 20 years earlier when the church ran a teen center in a converted house across the street.
By 1996, with two staff, six middle school students and an operating budget barely over $4,000, the Lighthouse was born. First Mennonite Church already had an elementary outreach -- Venture Club and a youth Group for high schoolers. The need for a middle school club was apparent so the six middle school students became the first of many to participate in the newly established Jr High Club.
In 1997, the Lighthouse staff, Darin Nissley and Wendy Overholt, were approached by Jon Matthewson, a youth ministry major with a love for God and a heart for inner-city youth. He expressed the desire to begin an after-school program at the Lighthouse allowing the youth to have a safe place to play after school. After prayerful consideration and discussion the Lighthouse After-School Play Program was established. Attendance varied in the early years from 15-30 youth attending each day.
As the program grew, it became evident that students also needed extensive help with their homework. The Tutoring Program was added the next school year with several Malone College students recruited to volunteer their time and talents.
The Lighthouse has made a concentrated effort to remain aware of the needs in the community and to do our best to address those needs as they pertain to our mission:
"To Impact the Youth of Our Neighborhood With the Love of Christ"
We are committed to grow only as it strengthens our ability to live out the mission to which God has called us.
Today the Lighthouse employs 15 people and has a volunteer base of more than 40 individuals. Programming includes the After School Program with 40 children attending daily, which includes tutoring and homework assistance as well as time for enrichment and recreation. We also offer the Summer Activities Project, the Summer Enrichment Program and Youth Ministry Clubs for all ages.
Additionally, we host service learning teams for our Service Learning Program throughout the year, which welcomes middle school, high school, and college students from all over the United States and Canada to serve and learn in our corner of the world.
The Lighthouse currently runs on an operating budget of just over $210,000.