By Yadira Betances
LAWRENCE — For the past several months, Centro de Adoracion church has opened its gym doors so area youth can play basketball and have a hot meal after school.
Soon the church at 96 E. Haverhill St. will open a youth center offering even more programs to neighborhood children thanks to a $15,000 grant Columbia Gas of Massachusetts presented to Community Day Charter Public School yesterday.
“Lawrence is the epitome of an American city with a proud past, but because of the economy, it has its challenges,” said Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia Gas.
The grant from Columbia Gas was given to the charter school which is the fiscal agent for the Lawrence Methuen Community Coalition which will offer programs at the church, separate from what they already offer.
The partnership with Centro de Adoracion is a follow up to a meeting last month involving Mayor William Lantigua, the Lawrence Police Department and ministers on how to address youth crime and violence committed by youths.
“We want to create a neighborhood oasis in the city,” Community Development manager Art McCabe said.
Lawrence is one of three communities Columbia Gas targets its corporate contributions to meet community needs. The others are Brockton and Springfield.
Bryant said the new youth center at Centro de Adoracion was an opportunity to partner with the city.
“We have invested in the community and we’re here to stay. If the city is allowing us to do business here, it’s our moral obligation to give back,” Bryant said.
In addition to the grant, Bryant said they will help the Revs. Susan and Jose Santos, pastors at Centro de Adoracion, with a rebate on a heating system to get a gas line into the building.
Noting the Prospect Hill area did not have a youth center, the Rev. Jose Santos said he is glad to provide the space.
His wife agreed.
“I think it’s great to work in partnership with other agencies and have an open-door policy where parents can come and see their children are in a safe place,” Susan Santos said.
In addition, Enterprise Bank helped them acquire the building and refinance so they can fix windows in the gymnasium and the roof on the church.
Another center is planed for Third Baptist Church on Warren Street on Tower Hill.
The Rev. Lewis Floyd, pastor at Third Baptist, said the church offers music lessons including recorder, flute and violin to neighborhood children.
“We’re trying to do our part, especially with cuts to arts and music programs in schools, churches and community based organizations need to fill the gap,” Floyd said.