DIANE MAKAR MURPHY Christian speaker seeks ideas for youth center

Dave Kohout got through Boardman High by the skin of his teeth. He had rotten grades and, unbeknownst to his two loving parents, a deserved reputation as a pothead.
Kohout, who was introduced in Tuesday's column, is, decades later, a dynamic youth speaker for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is soliciting ideas from people in the community for the creation of a youth center in Boardman. But all that is a far cry from his troubled teen years when he'd arrived at a place where Kohout prayed, "God, if you're real, help me."
Weeks of partying passed before God replied ... in a Laundromat in the Outer Banks. A stranger gave Kohout a slip of paper with the address of a youth group. To his amazement, the group met on Glenwood Avenue -- across the street from a friend who'd earlier told Kohout to find God. "Can you imagine? I'm in North Carolina and I get this!" Kohout said.
Made an impact
That small gesture made a huge impact. Over the next year, he became a regular at Calvary Assembly of God. "I found out it wasn't about religion; it was about a relationship," Kohout said. He cleaned up his act and went to work.
One job led to another until Kohout found himself selling printing and discovered he had a talent for sales. In fact, Steve and Kathy Blakeman, owners of Valley Office Equipment, hired him after hearing his printing sales pitch.
The first day at Valley, Kohout noticed a scripture on the wall. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding," it began. Kohout -- the guy who squeaked through high school -- was about to discover he had a lot to offer -- first in sales, then as a youth leader.
For the next 17 years, he sold for Valley, hitting one sales plateau after another, increasing his commissions and salary each year. At the same time, Kohout attended Trinity Fellowship Church, becoming involved in its youth programs as a volunteer, then volunteer youth pastor in 1998.
Sales drop
Before he realized it, Kohout's employers did -- his passions had shifted. His sales began to drop. "We won't fire you," his employers said, "but you have to quit." One door is closing, they said sympathetically, suggesting it was time that Kohout walk through another.
Easier said than done with a wife, two children, a great salary and benefits. But leaps of faith weren't new to Kohout. He quit his job and left it up to God. Soon after, he applied to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was hired.
"I never made it to college, I graduated with a 1.68 grade point average, and I wasn't an athlete," he marveled. But it's not as odd as one might think -- Kohout is a dynamic speaker who cares deeply about saving youths from the grief he gave himself.
At half the salary, Kohout is nonetheless characteristically enthusiastic about his three years with FCA helping youths. What's more, his path is still being "made straight" to paraphrase the rest of the scripture.
Acreage offered
Jim and Kim Poma, the owners of the building in which FCA has its Boardman office, have offered several undeveloped acres at the McClurg Road site to Kohout, saying, "If you can make good use of this, go ahead."
Kohout plans to. The fields, along with the Pomas' warehouse where a stereo sound system, a few battered game tables, a basketball hoop and those ratty chairs and couches reside, will someday be the home of a youth center (ball fields, a computer lab, a hangout) -- a positive influence on hundreds of area youths, Kohout hopes. What he wants now are ideas from people in the community.
Kohout seeks not so much to bring kids to Christ (he hopes the youth center will draw youths of all different religious backgrounds, or lack thereof), as to bring them to their senses. He tells the teens in his audiences, "When a fat, little bald guy can do it, anything is possible."
XFor more information or to share your youth center ideas, you can call Dave Kohout at (330) 509-4962.

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