By Bob McDonnell
There is a place for the youth of Berthoud to spend time after school, thanks to New Freedom Outreach Center (NFOC). The church, located at 250 Mountain Ave., opens its doors on Monday through Thursday for students.
The project, officially called Way of the Walk, is a “youth hangout,” according the NFOC’s youth pastor Ken Easter. He started the program in August. “I kept an eye out during the summer, since New Freedom is new to town,” said Easter. He spoke with parents in the area and the principals at Turner Middle School (TMS) and Berthoud High School (BHS).
“What are we missing here?” was the question he asked the school administrators. They gave feedback that there was nothing like a boys and girls club or location to go to and do things after school.
With this in mind, Easter proposed to NFOC Pastor Phil Brewster the idea of opening NFOC for this purpose. Thus, NFOC became the place for local youth to go after school.
Easter says different students use the facility for different reasons. Some come to do homework — primarily the high-schoolers. Others, including many TMS kids, come to play foosball and video games. Easter feels many sixth graders are working through the transition to middle school and finding their place.
During the after hours time at NFOC, the café is open with a limited menu, with everything costing $5 or less.
Currently, about four or five students attend most days. “It’s been sporadic right now — it’s new,” Easter said. To get the word out, Easter spends time during school days at both TMS and BHS. He has lunch at TMS once a week.
Easter hopes to grow the program. It is open to any students in the Berthoud area. It was designed for the 11- to 18-age range, but occasionally younger boys and girls show up. “We want to be open to anybody — all inclusive.”
The youth pastor commented on the all-inclusive aspect of Way of the Walk. “It’s not a religious thing, even though the program is operated in a church,” Easter emphasized. “We are just here to help. We want to serve them and where they are safe,” he added, speaking of the participants. Easter noted the only charge is if a student buys food.
Way of the Walk is funded by NFOC. Every Sunday the proceeds from Cornerstone Café, within the church, go to the youth programs. Additionally, local businesses have donated to help sustain the efforts of NFOC and Easter.
Haley Wadsworth, a BHS senior, goes to NFOC to do her homework. She has been attending the sessions for about a month. She likes that Easter spends time at BHS. “He is always there for you,” Wadsworth stated.
One concern of Easter’s is that many students do not have transportation to get the NFOC’s Mountain Avenue address, or they ride the bus, which makes it hard to get to the facility too.
Easter is considering using the church’s van to pick up students at the school to eliminate that obstacle. “We’re working on that,” Easter said optimistically.