Visibility brings prosperity, growth to Teen Challenge

The Vindicator (Youngstown)


Members of Ohio Valley Teen Challenge work in the kitchen of the rehabilitation center in Youngstown. Thanks to an outpouring of donations, the program's kitchen and catering service has been expanded.


Nearly 200 residential Teen Challenge centers across the United States provide care for people of all ages with substance abuse issues. Here are some key dates in the organization’s history.

1958: First Teen Challenge center is constructed by Dave Wilkerson in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1974: Roy Barnett, who grew up in Indiana, moves to Youngstown and marries Cathy Barnett.

1975: Roy Barnett joins Philadelphia Teen Challenge as publications director.

1979: LAMB (Lay Action Ministry of Believers) Ministries residential men’s center opens on Glenwood Avenue.

1982: LAMB adopts Teen Challenge curriculum and format. Kevin Rauch enters program, then located at 130 Cleveland St., as a resident. Center offers four-month program and then sends men to other Teen Challenge centers in U.S.

1984: Rauch graduates from Rehrersburg Pennsylvania Teen Challenge, home of Wilkerson.

1986: LAMB facility closes due to lack of funding.

1987: Rauch returns to Youngstown and helps form the Greater Youngstown Teen Challenge, a crisis and referral outreach center.

1999: Cafaro Memorial Hospital (Youngstown Osteopathic Hospital) closes.

July 2007: Frank Vennes calls Rauch to set up a residential Teen Challenge center in Youngstown.

October 2007: Vennes purchases the Cafaro hospital for $73,000, according to the auditor’s website.

November 2007: Barnett, who is serving on the board for Greater Youngstown Teen Challenge, returns to Youngstown.

September 2008: Barnett and Rauch begin construction of Ohio Valley Teen Challenge at the Florencedale Avenue facility.

January 2009: Hope for Youngstown donates $111,000 to OVTC for kitchen.

March 2009: OVTC opens.

March 2010: Dave Clementi is the first to graduate from Ohio Valley Teen Challenge.

Sources: Ohio Valley Teen Challenge, staff members

By Doug Livingston


Ohio Valley Teen Challenge executive director Roy Barnett was invited to a recent fundraiser at Pleasant Valley Church in Niles.

“It was just a normal Sunday morning service,” Pleasant Valley Pastor John Weisman said, but Barnett “had no idea what was about to happen.”

As Barnett sat with the congregation, a wheelbarrow was pushed to the front of the pews, filled with money from church members and then counted. The tally was projected on a screen as the opening theme to “2001: A Space Odyssey” filled the air.

The wheelbarrow’s collections, along with funds raised in the prior two days, totaled more than $37,000. The church wrote that dollar amount on a check and handed it to Barnett, no strings attached.

“He was speechless,” Weisman said.

Barnett and the staff at OVTC “are a crazy bunch of risk takers,” Weisman said, “but we believe in what they were doing as a vital part of the community.”

The Vindicator and collaborated on a seven-part series in November that showcased the fledgling rehabilitation center that opened in March 2008 just off Wick Park on Youngstown’s North Side. As a result of the series, the new year looks brighter for OVTC.

Barnett had been praying for $35,000 to expand the kitchen and catering services at the Florencedale Avenue center, which provides faith-based residential drug and alcohol treatment for men.

He now has $2,000 to spare.

“We’ve been a year ahead almost of everything,” Barnett said of the accomplishments of OVTC.

They never imagined housing 40-some men at the center within two years.

They never imagined having to tell businesses and organizations that they are too busy to take on another job. The work program is publicized by word of mouth. They’re afraid to advertise because of the overwhelming workload.

Barnett and other officials are willing to take on more work, but the center can only house 48 men to staff the work program.

“We need at least an 80-man facility right now,” Barnett said.

OVTC’s web site is an indication of the increased support it has received from the community. The site was recently down. When Roy’s wife Cathy, an administrator at OVTC, called the web site provider to ask what the problem was, she was told the volume of visitors was too high.

“I guess that’s a good thing, right?” she laughed.

More bandwidth was supplied to keep up with all the donations and online visitors.

The $37,000 donation from Pleasant Valley was used to purchase $11,000 in kitchen equipment from the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership, which is experiencing budget cuts that have hindered its ability to help Youngstown’s needy. An additional $12,500 secured the first and last months’ rent as well as a security deposit for the 4,000-square-foot kitchen formerly run by MYCAP.

OVTC is picking up where MYCAP left off.

“Our food services doubled with the contract,” OVTC board member Bruce Paulette said.

Sitting in Barnett’s office, director of operations Bob Pavlich throws a fatigued arm into the air and exclaims, “One week. We’ve made it.”

In that first week of December, Pavlich was referring to the men at OVTC who cooked and shipped more than 1,300 meals a day from breakfasts and lunches to snacks. The meals were sent to children in the Youngstown Area Community Action Center Head Start preschools, to other children and the elderly through Heart Reach Ministries and to the troubled youth of Safehouse Ministries Inc., which is housed in the same building as OVTC.

OVTC is constructing a cafeteria for Safehouse residents at the center.

Officials are also excited to announce their plans to open a women’s residential facility in Youngstown. The center on Florencedale Avenue houses only men. The plan, originally budgeted for 2012, is being pushed up a year.

Officials are sitting down with prospective investors in January and February to seek funding to purchase certain properties in Youngstown that have recently become available. Though no exact location has been determined, they said they are proud to announce that construction of a women’s facility will begin next year.

Support groups will also be available next year.

Starting this month, families who are struggling with a loved one under the influence of drugs and alcohol can meet at the Wick Park center for a weekly support group. Another meeting will take place weekly for those personally battling with drug addiction.

Two other support groups, one in Trumbull County and another in Columbiana County, are also expected to open this year.

NewsOutlet is a joint media venture by student and professional journalists and is a collaboration of Youngstown State University, WYSU radio and The Vindicator.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.