JOPLIN, Mo. —
If the Neighborhood Life House accomplishes nothing else, it will have carried on a great Christian presence at 516 N. Wall Ave. However, Katie Hargrove, director of the non-denominational community ministry, is determined to take it much further than that.
North Joplin Christian Church and Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) were predecessors of the house. The property served as the original Joplin site for the college, which relocated from Bentonville, Ark., in 1944, before it was donated to the church 19 years later.
The church disbanded in 2009, which is when Neighborhood Life House established its Christian outreach, largely concentrating on elementary- and middle-school students. The original structure was a mansion built by an attorney and his family six years after the Civil War.
Answering God's call
Hargrove, a native of Little Rock, Ark., who felt a calling to go to places with the most need, took over as the house's director last year after serving as a missionary at God's Resort in Joplin and being trained in urban missionary work in Chicago.
Partnering with Columbia Elementary and North Middle schools, Neighborhood Life House has been focusing 80 percent of its work on after-school programs but plans to further its cause toward meeting the needs of families throughout the entire neighborhood and community.
"The idea for our name comes from being community-based, so neighborhood makes sense," said Hargrove, who holds a bachelor of arts degree from Missouri Southern State University and is completing her master's degree in urban studies with an emphasis in youth leadership. "Right now we are providing a safe place with a Christian presence for our kids to come after school."
With Hargrove the only full-time staff member, the house relies heavily on volunteers, with after-school activities limited to three days a week. There is no cost associated with the programs, which are open to all families in the neighborhood regardless of income levels.