Cen­ter of ac­tiv­ity

Jed Chappell and his wife, Julie, started OKCity Cen­ter, a youth re­cre­ation program that con­tin­ues to grow and evolve.

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - BY CARLA HIN­TON Re­li­gion Edi­tor chin­[email protected]­la­homan.com

WARR ACRES — Ev­ery nook and cranny of a for­mer church build­ing has been trans­formed into a youth re­cre­ation cen­ter that con­tin­ues to grow as it ap­proaches its second an­niver­sary.

Jed Chappell and his wife, Julie, formed a youth program in 2016 and of­fi­cially opened OKCity Cen­ter in Fe­bru­ary 2017 at 5731 NW 41. The cou­ple rented the build­ing from Vic­tory Church, where Jed Chappell had been a long­time staff mem­ber.

Jed Chappell said he, his wife and a group of core vol­un­teers wanted to see lives re­stored in the Ok­la­homa City metro area.

He said he was a trou­bled youth and over­came his past through faith in Christ. He said he wanted to do his part to steer young peo­ple away from neg­a­tive pur­suits.

The Chap­pells had a vi­sion to turn Vic­tory Church’s for­mer youth build­ing into a place where young peo­ple from the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity could stop by for a free meal, after-school men­tor­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties of­fered in a sta­ble and pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

And love would be at the cen­ter of it all.

“We’re re­ally ex­cited about what God is do­ing here,” Jed Chappell said.

“The truth is the Gospel is at the cen­ter of all of it. We just feel like the Gospel is trans­lated best through re­la­tion­ships that vol­un­teers, staff and oth­ers fa­cil­i­tate with youths and their fam­i­lies.

Jed Chappell said the cen­ter’s free after-school ath­letic and ed­u­ca­tion program has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions.

On any given week­day, the cen­ter is filled with about 100 youths, mostly from the Put­nam City school dis­trict. Chappell said mid­dle school stu­dents come in larger num­bers than any other group.

He said the cen­ter was set up and fur­nished to cre­ate a cozy and home­like at­mos­phere that would be invit­ing to youths.

The cou­ple didn’t do a lot of ad­ver­tis­ing to get young peo­ple to come, “they just started com­ing,” he said.

Once at the cen­ter, youths are treated to an af­ter­noon snack and a din­ner meal each day. The young peo­ple also have op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­ter­act with adult men­tors while they do their home­work in an ed­u­ca­tion area or talk with men­tors while playing board games or other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It’s 12,000-square-feet of all kinds of twisty and turny spa­ces and we try to uti­lize all of it,” Chappell said of the cen­ter.

He said OKCity Cen­ter was able to pur­chase the build­ing from Vic­tory in 2018 through a $500,000 do­na­tion from Jasco Prod­ucts’ Giv­ing Hope Foun­da­tion.

Part­ner­ships are im­por­tant

Chappell said the cen­ter is a non­re­li­gious non­profit that part­ners with faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions and sec­u­lar groups.

“By our­selves, we can be these tiny si­los. If we work to­gether, we can re­ally ac­com­plish some­thing,” he said.

He said most of the cen­ter’s adult men­tors are from lo­cal col­leges and churches.

“There are re­la­tion­ships form­ing that are go­ing to be ab­so­lutely trans­for­ma­tive,” he said.

Stu­dents in lead­er­ship groups at Put­nam City High School and Put­nam City North High School also serve as vol­un­teers.

Cai­ley Parsells and Fidel Anyabolu, se­niors who are part of Put­nam City High’s lead­er­ship class, re­cently vis­ited the cen­ter to help with clean­ing and or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The pair said they en­joyed help­ing at the cen­ter be­cause of its in­clu­sive­ness.

“I like that it is about any­body that needs help. It’s about lov­ing peo­ple,” Parsells said.

Chappell said other com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions like The Spero Project and Novo Min­istries have part­nered to aid the cen­ter.

Busi­nesses, such as Old Navy, also have pro­vided their ex­per­tise. Chappell said Old Navy re­cently took some OKCity Cen­ter youths to one of its sites for job train­ing.

Chappell said OKCity Cen­ter also has a bas­ket­ball league and other ath­letic pro­grams.

Blake Grif­fin, Ok­la­homa na­tive and NBA star cen­ter with the Detroit Pis­tons, along with his brother Tay­lor Grif­fin, do­nated a new out­door bas­ket­ball court to the cen­ter through the Team Grif­fin Foun­da­tion. Chappell said other part­ners in the $90,000

ef­fort in­cluded the NBA Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Foun­da­tion, U.S. Soc­cer Foun­da­tion, McLaugh­lin Fam­ily Foun­da­tion and En­ergy FC Soc­cer Team.

More re­cently, Echo En­ergy

spon­sored a so­cial me­dia cam­paign that en­cour­aged the cen­ter to find donors that the com­pany would match. Chappell said the cen­ter had to get 1,000 unique do­na­tions, and Echo promised to match them.

“We ended up ac­quir­ing 750 new donors, and it has helped us es­tab­lish a very strong fi­nan­cial foun­da­tion,” Chappell said.

He said Ok­la­homa City ra­dio per­son­al­ity Spinozi, one of co­hosts of The Morn­ing An­i­mals on WWLS The Sports An­i­mal, helped the cen­ter with the do­na­tion match project and was re­spon­si­ble for more than 300 of the new donors that helped make the project a suc­cess.

“It was re­ally pow­er­ful,” Chappell said.

He said he hopes to launch an­other re­cre­ation cen­ter some­day in an­other part of the metro area, and ul­ti­mately, he’d like to see one in all neigh­bor­hoods where young peo­ple and their fam­i­lies are in need of ac­cess to the right re­sources for suc­cess.

“We be­lieve that some­thing like this should ex­ist in ev­ery neigh­bor­hood,” Chappell said.

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Youths eat snacks at OKCity Cen­ter, 5731 NW 41 in Warr Acres.

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Jed Chappell and his wife, Julie, OKCity Cen­ter founders, serve snacks at the youth cen­ter in Warr Acres.

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