Powerhouse team

Powerhouse Executive Director Tracy Cook and assistant directors Whitney Clinton and Tanner McPherson pose for a photo in front of the popular after-school teen facility.

The Powerhouse, an after school safe haven for junior high and high school students, turns 20 this year. While directors, activities and the interior of the Main Street facility have changed, the non-profit’s mission — to change lives one at a time — remains the same.

On Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m., the community is invited grab a lawn chair and head to the Powerhouse, 709 E. Main, to enjoy a 20th anniversary celebration complete with a free turkey strip dinner, guest speakers, a chance to meet the new staff and more.

“We have several kids who came to the Powerhouse coming back and we have some speakers planned,” said Tracy Cook, executive director of the Powerhouse. “One of those speakers is Jeremy Clark who works in youth ministry in Ohio.”

Since it began in 1999, only six people have served as executive director. The late David Bean was first and was followed by Dean Lengacher, Barb Knepp, Lengacher again, Nathaniel Rainey and Dan Maley. In late September, Cook added his name to the list.

“I started working at the Powerhouse in 2004,” said Cook, who graduated from Barr-Reeve but also came to the facility for youth group. “I worked part-time here for quite awhile, and when Barb Knepp left, I became assistant director.”

The Powerhouse is a pretty special place for Cook. His senior year, he met his future wife, Amber, there. She later became a Powerhouse employee too.

“We actually got engaged and married here at the Powerhouse,” said Cook, who said he’s excited to be back. “People know this is a safe place for their kids from 3 to 6. They can come in here and get a hot meal, hang out with their friends and have some fellowship.”

From air hockey downstairs to the band room upstairs and several outdoor activities, Cook said there are plenty of things youth can do while at the facility.

“The air hockey is really popular and we are hoping to add ping pong and pool,” said Cook, adding kids still use the skate park and basketball courts as well.

Cook said while some things have changed since he was last employed at the Powerhouse, some things have stayed the same.

“We still have a lot of the same people coming in to help support us,” he said. “They see how important this is and still give.”

Also making a return to the Powerhouse is Tanner McPherson.

“I’m loving every minute of it,” said McPherson, who is serving as Powerhouse missions director. “It’s like being back where I belong.”

McPherson said a lot of his efforts will be directed toward helping youth make gospel center decisions.

“It’s about finding creative ways to start conversations and get kids engaged,” he said. “We’re also going to focus on giving back to the community that has given so much to us.”

That giving back, McPherson said, in the future could include the reintroduction of local mission trips where youth find ways to help serve the community.

New to the Powerhouse is Whitney Clinton who serves as food program and programming director.

“I’ve been doing youth ministry since I was in my early 20s,” said Cook, who moved to the area 13 years ago with her husband, Chris. “I do have a Powerhouse connection though. My brother-in-law attended here. I have a passion for kids, and I want them to feel like this is a safe place to come and I want parents to feel like this is a safe place to send their kids.”

Clinton said the food program, which is federally regulated to ensure meals meet nutritional guidelines, currently has about 20 students participating.

“We are looking for volunteers who would like to come in and help with serving the meals,” said Clinton, who said the Powerhouse also accepts donations of whole wheat grain products, fruits and vegetables, 1% milk and paper products to help provide the meals to students.

While the meals may be her first line of focus, Clinton said she is also hoping to increase the programs offered at the facility.

“We have some different ideas for programs we would like to get started in the future,” she said.

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