During a recent fundraiser event in Toledo, I was introduced to a gentleman named Jake. (No, not from State Farm, he works in health care). He told us a story of how he grew up in a really small town called Greenfield, Ohio. He said that when he was a young teen, a youth organization along with a group of churches worked together to open a teen center in their little town. "We had a lot of empty space" he said. "We could get into a lot of trouble". "But this happened at just the right time in my life" he tells us. "That teen center was the best thing that could have happened to me, and it came at just the right time." This touched my heart and I thanked him for sharing his story with us. What stuck with me the most about his story though was the fact that a group of churches came together along side a youth organization to make it happen. Someone had to start the vision, and everyone else supported the idea and worked together to bring the vision to life. And that decision made such an impact on that community that it helped change this mans life for the better!
As his wife and young daughter joined him at the table, I couldn't stop thinking about how many lives we could impact if our churches would be willing to work together with us to make this vision successful. How many lives could we impact? Just one makes it worth it, but united, we can truly make a visible change in our community. Please join us and become a partner in the mission God has called us to do. You could be the answer to someone's prayers!
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"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do." ~ Steve Jobs (Founder of Apple)
~Julie Burk, Executive Director
Sometimes it seems like forever and a day when you are impatiently waiting for something to arrive! It’s hard to believe that the Portal 2:20 Teen Center has been in the making now for 3 years! 2016 has been spent focused on the finalization of becoming a stand-alone non-profit organization and also on renovating what was once a garage space into an inviting, fun and safe teen space. The students attending Vantage Career Center’s Building and Grounds program lead by Instructor Mr. Dave DeLano and Assisted by Ms. Brenda Wurst have been the hands and feet of the renovation projects at the Portal. Without them, the projects would have taken us significantly longer and cost us much more than we could have afforded! From January through May, The students did everything from spray-painting the ceiling a matte black, to painting the walls an “Amazing Gray” (Sherwin Williams color 7044, look it up!). They also designed and built an incredible platform and divider wall to be used as a stage for various performances, and help frame in our gaming area with half-walls and benches for seating.
As summer began to approach, members of our community began to take notice of our efforts. Kingsley UMC hosted a pancake and sausage breakfast fundraiser for us in May that earned us over $600 in donations, as well as new friends and connections in the community. From there the press began to notice and we were blessed with a front page story in the Times Bulletin paper about our mission and passion for the teen center. In June, we made our first Parade appearance during the Peony festival, and even though it rained, the teens and I had a blast! We even made a few folks laugh at the crazy dancing dinosaur. ;)
Over the summer, our application to the IRS for tax exempt status had finally been approved, and just in time for our concession stand fundraiser at Fountain Park during the summer concert music series with the man whom I have affectionately named the “Fiddler on the Roof”. It was so much fun spending time with the Pokémon Hunters that evening! With all the free leftover ice cream, who wouldn’t want to stop and say hi?
When fall approached, my faith began to waiver. Sometimes itstough not having all the answers. And when people would ask when we were planning to open, I didn’t have an answer for them. The original goal had been May 4th, 2016- but that blew by in a heartbeat because things take longer than you would think. The follow up plan of opening in the fall was looking like a long-shot as well. There was still so much to do, and not enough funding to do any of it. So we waited for God to move. “Be Still and Know”. And then God spoke and lifted a very expensive burden from us. It was time to move forward again.
Then in October, a local artist came and hand painted a beautiful galactic portal on our garage door to become the backdrop to our logo and name… and it is amazing! Little things were being accomplished. Acoustic panels were hung inside, electrical lines were still being installed and soon, a donated sound system was in place! We just needed to trust in God’s timing- not ours.
By the time December came, our electrical had been completed; lighting and furniture had been installed and set up. We still didn’t feel “ready”, as we still have quite a few things left to do, but we decided to hold an open house anyway and share the vision for the Portal with people in our community. The press was amazing and we had yet another front page story. Over Christmas break, we were able to have a teen night and share the space with a few teens connected with a couple area youth groups. It was a blast! We are so close to opening; we are now just trusting in God to cover our monthly expenses!
Throughout the year, donations from people like you were arriving at just the right time. We would need more lumber to build, or have a bill for insurance to pay and somehow a check would arrive in the mail just in the nick of time! Everything at the Portal has happened because you listened to the still small voice that nudged you to think of us. You may not realize it, but you have been an answer to prayer!
I would like to personally thank each and every one of you who have given generously from the heart to help build the ministry at the Portal 2:20 Teen Center. No gift was too small. We appreciate you more than you may realize! Together, your contributions totaled roughly $11,000.00 in 2016 and have provided us the opportunity to build the foundation of our ministry. Your continued support will help us become another light in the dark places, and reach those who are hurting, broken, beat down and without hope. Thank you for not giving up on them.
“But forget all that- It’s nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43: 18-19)
Love in Christ,
Executive Director, Portal 2:20 Teen Center, Inc.
108b Zimmerman Ave.
Van Wert, OH 45891
The concert was over, most of the attendees have left. A teen I hadn't met before walks up to our stand as we are cleaning up and asks if we had any leftover food he could have for free. I thought of the hot dogs still simmering in the roaster. "We have some hot dogs left... no buns though..." I told him. “Let me ask my brother” he says and he walks away. A moment later he returns and asks “can I have two please?" “Sure” I said, and I served him a couple of hot dogs without the bun onto a napkin. "Would you like ketchup, mustard or relish?" I asked as I set the condiments up on the counter.... “careful, they are hot" I said and I handed him the food.
"Thank you" he says and he puts a few coins, mostly pennies, up on the counter and walked away, giving his older brother one of the hot dogs. I stood there looking at the few coins a moment, thinking he didn't have to do that... I had already told him they were free... I hesitated, then picked the few coins up and added them to our donation jar.
Do you ever wonder who exactly hangs out at the park after dark? I for one am guilty of assuming a lot of things. But after that interaction, I started to think that maybe my general assumptions were wrong. As we finished up, we brought the remaining ice cream cups out to give away to anyone willing to take one... or five... or twelve...
Pretty soon, I see the same kid walking back toward us and I offered him some free ice cream. "Really?" He asks. "Take two or three if you want!" I told him, as we had plenty to spare... my guess is we had well over 100 cups left over. He smiled big. "This is the BEST day of my life!!" he said with excitement as he grabbed a couple cups and a spoon. "Thank you!" He says... "You are very welcome" I told him with a smile.
You never know what sort of interactions will take place and when. I know God has a plan and a purpose for everything, and evidently a purpose behind having a lot of leftover ice cream. I could have had the attitude that we needed to SELL the ice cream because after all, it was a fundraiser, and it had been a slower than usual night due to the heat. But when your mission is about sharing the love of Jesus, its not about how much money it takes, but finding opportunities in spite of the cost.
This is just one small step forward in our mission. All it takes is a willing heart to find and make opportunities. #SmallSteps #Opportunities #Portal220 #ReachingTheLostAtAllCost
As we work together to finish our plans for the new teen center, through your generosity, we can continue to find ways to reach out to our teenagers and share the love of Christ through our actions. Will you help us reach our goal to finish the facility before it gets cold again and kids are huddled back up inside? We need to give them that safe and fun place to go! Please consider donating! Even just a few dollars donated by many, can help us make a lot of progress! Thank you!
You can make a secure online donation to
Portal 2:20 Teen Center by clicking HERE