Fire at youth center puts future of 'Youth For Christ' in doubt

Fire destroys Hazel Park home for organization

HAZEL PARK, Mich. – A youth organization working with kids in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties is struggling to stay open after a fire destroyed the inside of their Hazel Park location.

The organization, Youth for Christ, works with 11- to 18-year-olds.

"It's about sharing values and hopes and dreams and having programs for kids to get involved and be connected to. They can grow up and know they have friends and places where they can get solid answers and someone they can talk to when times get rough," sadi the Rev. Dale Bishop, the executive director.

Its location in Detroit has been in operation for more than 40 years and the Hazel Park location was recently renovated.

"We just acquired [the Hazel Park facility] about three and a half years ago. It needed a lot of renovation, so over the past two and a half years, kids and volunteers from different churches came together and knocked down some walls, rebuilt, painted. We got the facility up and running to the point where we had an open house in October," Bishop said.

A fire started at the Hazel Park location in January. The chief of the Hazel Park Fire Department said it was a "suspicious fire," and though some evidence points to arson, it hasn't officially been ruled an arson yet. However, the fire has also impacted the Detroit location.

The organization went from serving kids four days a week to only two days each week.

"It set us back financially majorly and it put a halt on everything we were trying to do down here," said Director Charleston Day.

The organization was in the process of adding a computer laboratory and building a music studio for the kids.

The organization was "giving the kids in urban America a chance to participate in instrumentation because there is none in the city of Detroit. They took them out of most of the schools," Day said.

Day said having the locations in both Hazel Park and Detroit helped bridge a divide.

"We brought suburban America together along with urban America and suburban America didn't come to rescue urban America, they came and walked alongside each other because it's not just African-American kids who suffer. There are Caucasian kids, Mexican kids that all have the same issues in life and if we can get past this skin color, then we can be impactful and help young people abroad," he said.

Now, the organization is hoping the fire is just a setback and not enough to completely end the impactful organization.

"This ministry is close to my heart. It has been and I hope to die doing this. This is where I started and this is where I'd like to end," Bishop said.

Youth for Christ had insurance, and it will help with the interior of the facility, but it's not enough to keep either building open.

The organization has created a Go Fund Me page.

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