Center of activity
Jed Chappell and his wife, Julie, started OKCity Center, a youth recreation program that continues to grow and evolve.
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.
Youths eat snacks at OKCity Center, 5731 NW 41 in Warr Acres.
Jed Chappell and his wife, Julie, OKCity Center founders, serve snacks at the youth center in Warr Acres.