Mark Taylor
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For most spectators attending Blazer’s football games, the action lasts for four quarters.
But for a few hundred middle and high school students, a “fifth quarter” is hosted across town at New Life Community Church.
Fifth Quarter is an outreach ministry that provides Friday night activities for youths after the Blazers football games.
The church opens its doors to middle and high school students between 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Last week, nearly 400 young people attended for pizza, basketball and prizes.
Youth Pastor Reg Hamilton started the program at his home.
As attendance and participation grew, Fifth Quarter was moved to the church, which has a large multi-purpose room that doubles as a basketball court.
“A lot of it really is to provide teens in our communityCouncil to consider options for videotaping, streaming council meetings. from seventh to 12th grades a place to hang out, do something positive, and encounter an atmosphere of love. A safe place to hang out. That is what is driving what we are doing. And it is getting pretty crowded now to say the least.”
Teresa Terry, church member and outreach volunteer, said the church pays for the Fifth Quarter program from its own coffers.
However the program is getting too big for the church to finance it alone.
“What we do each week is supply pizza for the kids when they first get there,” Terry said. “Last week we had 376 kids. We had 50 pizzas, and we still didn’t have enough to feed them all.
“It is getting out of the church’s realm to pay for it each week.”
Terry added, “It’s amazing if you are not around teenagers and you are put in a position to watch teenagers eat, it is like watching a hurricane coming through.”
Charging admission is out of the question.
“We are afraid that would turn them away,” Terry said. “We are finding a lot of these kids are left alone from the time they get home (from school) until they are supposed to be home at a certain time.”
The church also supplies prizes as an incentive for attendees to stay for the duration of the evening and become exposed to a caring community.
“A lot of these kids, they have never had the opportunity to be in a church environment,” Terry said. “They don’t know what it is like. (Fifth Quarter) opens up the door for them to know that it is a safe place. If you have problems, you can talk to someone.
“They don’t want to scare the kids off, but they want to open the door to let them know there is help out there. There is someone who cares about you.”
Terry said the church has received donations from local businesses to help pay for food for Fifth Quarter, but additional financial assistance is needed as the program continues to grow.
Donations can be made to Fifth Quarter in care of New Life Community Church, 17935 S. Moonlight Rd., Gardner, KS 66030.
Terry said the church hopes to be able to maintain the Fifth Quarter program as it grows in attendance and popularity.
“We want to continue to give (young people) a positive place to go so they are not out making bad choices, giving them a place that basically keeps them off the streets,” Terry said.