By LINDA M. LINONIS
Convenience and service charted the course for what Juanita Pasley, executive director of United Methodist Community Center, describes as a “strategic move” to its new home in First United Methodist Church, 309 N. Park Ave.
A gathering Wednesday at the facility’s previous site, the former Rebecca Williams Community Center, 760 Main Ave. SW, provided “closure” there.
A group of about 50 then moved on to tour the center’s new setting at the downtown church, where Mayor William “Doug” Franklin, members of the board of directors, staff and guests attended the “relocation celebration.”
In a short program, Robert L. Faulkner, president of the board of directors, cited the “vision” of the United Methodist Church. “The location lends itself to more access to services,” he said. “It will serve more people and different groups.”
He credited Pasley with being a “great leader,” who has a “heart of gold and passion for people.”
Franklin described the day as “bittersweet,” remembering “the club,” a reference to the Rebecca Williams center, which he frequented growing up. He wondered aloud if anyone then would have guessed he would become mayor of a city of 42,000 residents. “The club was a foundation of inspiration,” Franklin said.
But, the mayor noted, “The new day, new beginning for the center provides him with hope for tomorrow.” He also cited the center’s effort at “creating partnerships and reaching out.”
Pasley, who has worked for UMCC for 32 years, said the move to the church takes the organization “into the hub where social services are.” She said Job and Family Services, One Stop and the Veterans Commission are “across the street” from the new site. “It’s all within walking distance for clients,” she said.
Pasley said the expense of the former site was not a sound financial plan. The building, known as the Rebecca Williams Community Center for more than 90 years, closed in 2006. It is owned by the United Methodist Women’s Division in New York. UMCC brought its services to Warren in 2006.
Pasley, who marked her fourth year as executive director in July, said in a Vindicator story earlier this year that the suggestions in a 2009 strategic plan were implemented successfully. Over the years, she said, the UMCC changed from recreational to service-oriented. The director said the new site in Warren is on the first floor of the church, where there is a reception desk.
The Rev. Rick Oaks, church pastor, said he saw the move as a “homecoming” of sorts because the church fulfills the mission of the Lord. He said “the least, the lost and the last” should be cared about and seen as God’s people. The UMCC reaches out to provide services, he said.
The Rev. Mr. Oaks said the “sweet” part of a bittersweet day is the knowledge that “the center will bring hope and resources into the lives of people.”
The United Methodist Community Center in Youngstown was established in 1922 and was first known as the Pearl Street Mission. The mission took its new name in 1959 and relocated to 138 E. Boardman St., Youngstown, in July 2009.