Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yes You Can -- Ed's Spot

If you are ever in the neighborhood of 272nd and 99th in Stanwood after school, you have likely noticed lots of teens on the street. They're probably headed for The Spot, a teen drop-in center operated by Youth for Christ. Housed in a lovely brick home next door to Our Savior's Lutheran Church, its doors are open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:30 till 5:00 and Saturday evenings from 7:30 till 10:00. All kids 11-18 are welcome to hang out at The Spot, enjoy some healthy snacks, play pool or video games, chat with friends or one of the adult volunteers.

Director Briana Gibson has been involved at The Spot for nearly nine years. It wouldn't her first choice; she thought to be a youth worker you needed to be gregarious, loud, and live off caffeine, and that just wasn't her. But she felt the Lord confirming this in her heart, and finally she said "Yes."

She started as an intern but after a year her supervisor moved on. Briana managed The Spot alone for two years before she was made the director. The young woman who did not "fit the description" of a youth worker has fallen in love with the job. "I love it more now than I ever did!" she says.

I talked to Briana as she was on her way to the Kleisick farm where she was picking up a donation of organic apples and bananas. "There are cows running across the field!" she laughed. "They must be going to get food!" I'm thinking it must have been a bit reminiscent of kids rushing the kitchen at The Spot!

When the doors open at The Spot in the afternoon, the kids are served healthy snacks -- fresh fruit, sandwiches, even a hot meal one day a week. At 3:30, most of the kids gather in the living room where they share prayer requests and spend a few minutes in prayer. Lately they've added Bible reading and discussion to the agenda. The rest of the time is spent just hanging around inside and outside the house, chatting with friends and with volunteers. The gospel is lived out before these young people who may have no other exposure to Jesus than their days at The Spot.

A girls' Bible study meets on Monday afternoon and a boys' groups meets on Wednesdays. With a couple of winer camps plus day trips and a white water raft/rock climbing trip in July, there's lots for the kids to do. It's a significant ministry in the Stanwood/Camano community.

"But how did The Spot come to be?" you ask. Let me tell you about Ed Haslam.

Born in Japan in 1920, Ed's parents were missionaries. When they returned to the States his dad started a ministry to Japanese children in Seattle. Ed and his siblings would go with their dad on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, even when they were very young, and help their dad. And he never got over the love for working with children that was planted in his heart through this experience.

Ed loved kids, and kids knew it. His career was with the Seattle Public Schools, as a teacher and a principal, gave him a chance to express his interest in youth. And it was not uncommon for the kids in his neighbor to knock on his door and ask his wife or children if Ed could come out and play!

He retired and moved to Warm Beach in the 1970s and found his way into the lives of kids as a substitute teacher in the Stanwood Camano School District. It didn't take him long to realize that there was nothing for the young people of the community to do when they weren't in school. Just as Ed was dreaming of building a youth center for area kids, Seattle Youth for Christ contact him and asked if he'd  work with them in Stanwood.

In 1985 The Spot opened its doors on Saturday nights at the old Lincoln School. The building was big, with too many rooms to supervise well, and the group was often rowdy. At first the evening agenda was entirely fun and games and when they added a five minute devotional they met with some resistance. That's when they decided to have a weekly drawing, right after devotions. You had to be there for devotions to get your name entered in the drawing!

Ed's enthusiasm for The Spot caught on as he visited churches in the area, talking about YFC, raising funds and recruiting volunteers. He promoted good will for the kids of the community as well as brought youth workers from various churches together to pray and plan.

In 1988, Ed received the Man of the Year award for Stanwood. His deep and abiding love for kids was God's gift to Ed and Ed's gift back to God. It blessed many and is still touching lives today.

(The Spot has been duplicated in two other communities in our region.)

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(Yes You Can is a monthly feature that tells the story of someone who has had a dream, followed their dream, and made a difference in their world because of it.)


Anonymous said...

This is a good blog. I learned some things that tie Ed's "career" here with Stanwood kids together. Thanks a bunch. ~a~

Karen S. said...

So enjoyed your reprise of Briana and The Spot. Kids are being redeemed because of this outreach, and our community is uplifted and strengthened. Thanks, Ginger.