BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Board of Adjustment unanimously approved a special use permit for the renovation of a 16,000-square-foot structure on approximately 8 acres that will be used to temporarily house young women who have aged out of foster care.
Calvary Chapel – Lake Norman, which purchased property at 122 Frazier Loop, also plans to build a 4,000-square-foot addition to the rear of this existing building to house young men in need of this transitional support.
Senior Pastor Mike Burner and his wife Lobby had a vision to restore this building, which they will call “The Life Center,” to “present day glory” with an updated roof and windows.
Burner told the Board of Adjustment that the word “shelter” has been used in association with the project, but he said this outreach ministry is much more and will continue the work of helping families and children, long a part of Barium Springs history.
When he arrived in the area, Burner discovered that Children’s Hope Alliance children, upon reaching 18, were aging out of the agency and left without support, which hurt his heart. With six children of his own, Burns knew from experience tha challenges tackling life alone at age 18.
The church ministers to the CHA youth on Sundays and throughout the week and invites them to a Wednesday Bible study and meal. Some have gotten pregnant and considered abortion.
“We wanted to make a difference” to help them, said Burner.
The church is currently helping one pregnant youth, rejected by her boyfriend and parents, and looking for help. She is currently being served by Fifth Street Ministries homeless shelter, but Burner wants a place for her and others to stay and be truly taken care, to receive medical care, and to learn the life and employment skills to transition to successful adult life and motherhood.
The Life Center services, care, and shelter are all free. The facility will be managed by a “house mom” and church pastors and volunteers, some of whom are nurses. The facility capacity will be about 24, with each young lady having her own room.
The Life Center can be a place of hope for all young women who are preparing for adulthood and the future. “We want to minister to her. We want to get her on to life, to support that baby, to get her training,” said Burner.
Volunteers, church pastors, and his wife Lobby Burner will be helping to run the center.
“We just want to be a blessing to Troutman,” added Burner.
The center will be open to any homeless youth in the area who is willing to commit to being under the church’s care and join Bible study and discipleship as a part of the program as they transition to adulthood and independent living.
Burner estimates that only a handful of CHA youths transitioning out of foster care will want their help, so the program is open to any youth exiting foster care or without a home for various reasons.
The length of stay will vary. Some may only stay a few months to learn life skills, get a job and earn money, and transition to independent living. However, if a pregnant youth arrives in her first trimester, she could be staying up to a year to get medical care, deliver the baby, and learn the parenting and job skills to become independent.
Associate Pastor Matt Conrad emphasized the first phase of the The Life Center will be “a private, referral-based option for young ladies to find themselves, especially in a crisis pregnancy situation.”
The center will help support these ladies, which will have an exponential impact on not only them short-term but the community long-term, Conrad added.
Lobby, who had her first boy Isaiah at age 20, said she was lucky that her mother did not reject her and the baby because there were few other options for them. “What truly changed my life was the change that happened in me,” including finding and marrying Mike, who was a wonderful father to her son and subsequent five children.
“I needed to be around people doing it right” with church, nutrition, school, and sleep, added Lobby. “I just started learning from all these wonderful families.” The center’s support and ministries can help other young women and their babies in the same way and a positive “chain reaction.”
Isaiah, who has helping agency experience and will also assist at the center, told the board that the center’s goal was not to provide good-intentioned temporary support that only extends their crisis circumstances but to truly change their life course. The center will offer a “family” to walk with them and help them take personal responsibility to create a stable life and find the grace and truth of faith.
Those interested in applying to live at The Life Center will have to agree to engaging in church ministries and to take the steps needed to develop the life and work skills to move toward independence and self-reliance.