Old Connelly school to be a Dream Center

Friday, December 7, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

An Arizona megachurch pastor's work has inspired ministers in Lewisburg to start converting the old Connelly school into an interdenominational ministry for underprivileged children and hungry people.

Pastor Shaun Grant of First Assembly of God and Joel Hutson, youth pastor at First Assembly, became aware of dream centers organized by Pastor Tommy Barnett in Phoenix, Ariz. Barnett is a "huge figure" in the Assembly of God, Grant said.

Annually, Barnett leads a pastors' school. Grant and Hutson went this year. They were inspired by the Los Angeles Dream Center that's helping underprivileged, hungry and abused people on Skid Row.

"It's in an old hospital that was used in an old TV show," Grant said. "They turned it into the LADC." And an old Phoenix hotel has become a dream center.

Lewisburg's center, to be called the Connelly Dream Center, will focus on young people.

"Our first goal is to become an after school place for programs for children who will have positive role models in front of them," Grant said. "Once we have that up and running, then we'll turn to other things.

"This is to serve the kids who live right in that vicinity," he said.

Mike Lee, associate pastor at LifeSong Family Church, deferred to Grant for much of the information about Connelly Dream Center, but Lee explained the old school will be a Salvation Army center.

"We've been working on the place for a year and a half," Lee said. "We would like to get the cafeteria working again so we can feed people a couple days a week. We're about a year away from that."

Meanwhile, Dream Center organizers are planning a street basketball league and a physical fitness program.

"We acquired the old Connelly school about six months earlier, but didn't know what we were going to do," Grant said. "We knew we needed a system, so why re-invent the wheel?"

Dream Centers started by Barnett became their model, Grant said.

"Victor Raymond, our on-site director, was sent to the Phoenix Dream Center for eight weeks last spring and summer and during that time we worked to bring the building up to code to where it was safe, clean and functional," Grant said.

"It was in bad condition," he continued. "We were able to paint it, get a new floor down, and, with new light fixtures, we'll to be able to get it open for kids to play basketball.

"In September, we had an open house," Grant said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get the doors fully open in 2013."

The building might also be a low-income housing center, but more work is needed and counselors want to help families.

"We're trying to walk slow and steady so we will be sustained for the long haul," Grant said.

The building's hours will be announced.