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.
Programs available for Elementary-, Middle-schoolers
Creative Kids, the newest program, meets from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. each Monday, and allows elementary school pupils to be creative through hands-on experiences in the arts and sciences.
The elementary school Kids Club meets from 3:30 to 5:30 on Tuesdays. In addition to arts and crafts, group lessons are conducted along with a time for worship.
An added attraction on Tuesdays, from 4:30 to 5:30, is the opportunity for youngsters to learn the art of fencing. Joplin High School teacher Jason Cravens brings some of his student volunteers to teach fencing skills to the children, who use foam swords.
There is also a Bible lesson taught. The program is appropriately named Swords for the Lord.
Time for middle-school students is held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Connect program promotes positive peer-group activities with a Christian emphasis.
Tutoring is provided from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. each Thursday. However, because pupils in kindergarten through the second grade don't generally have homework, they are given enrichment activities to occupy their time.
Special events range from block parties to prayer walks and family movie nights.
Hargrove estimated that there are about 15 to 18 high-school students and about 20 college-age students who volunteer on a regular basis. With an average of about 30 youngsters attending each session, Hargrove said she relies heavily on volunteers, including two retired teachers.
Operating expenses are covered from rent derived from a house next door, which it owns, as well as donations largely coming from primary sponsor College Heights Christian Church and secondary sponsor Christ's Community United Methodist Church.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email email@example.com.
Those who wish to donate may call Neighborhood Life House at 417-396-1812 or visit www.joplinlifehouse.com.