New Bethel Baptist Church Prepares for New Community Center
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Nearly 30 years ago, Rev. Kenneth L. Simon had a vision to create a better equipped space to meet the needs of the growing number of people served at New Bethel Baptist Church.
The church at 1507 Hillman St. unveiled its plans for its new multipurpose community center Sunday.
“It was part of our original expansion plan back in 1997,” Simon said. “We were outgrowing our former sanctuary.”
The center will be located in the former sanctuary.
Simon said they fundraised for the project through events and campaigns over the years.
“Phase one was to build the new sanctuary, which we did,” he said. “[We built] a $3.5 million structure. That was 2004.”
Phase two was to convert the former sanctuary into a multipurpose center.
“We got the sanctuary up, and we have been in the sanctuary for almost 20 years now,” Simon said.
Simon said the church had other projects they worked on during those 19 years, but completing phase two became increasingly urgent.
“We had groups of young people – Harambee and the vacation Bible school program,” he said. “We needed adequate space for the programs that we were offering or potentially offering not only the children in our church, but the children in our community.”
Simon said they began by removing the pews in the former sanctuary at the end of 2021.
“That freed up some space without the renovations,” he said. “We’ve had Harambee Group in there for just about a year.”
The singing, dancing and drumming group, which has about 150 members, works to spread African culture throughout the region.
Simon said the space will also be used for banquets, conferences and town hall meetings. The space will also allow for additional tutoring, mentoring, workshops and a variety of other programs for the community.
“We had this before, but we were cramming it into our fellowship hall, which was always overflowing because we didn’t have a large enough space,” he said.
Planning for the renovations began last year. The committee met to put together estimates on the costs of renovations and begin marketing for community support.
“We didn’t want to go into any debt taking out a loan,” Simon said. “We just wanted to raise the money and renovate the facility.”
The committee decided the new facility will be named after Simon – the KL Simon Community Center.
Simon said they are now waiting until they have at least three-fourths of the necessary funding before starting the renovations. Once renovations start, the work should take three to six months to complete, he said.
The Mahoning County commissioners donated $100,000 toward the project during the unveiling Sunday. An additional $50,000 was already raised by the church.
“We’re almost there,” Simon said. “With the donations that are coming in, we should be poised to begin the renovations within the next few months.”
The total projected cost for the renovations is $250,000.
“Hopefully, we will make a greater impact on the community that we believe the Lord has called us to serve,” Simon said.
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Pictured at top: A sign hangs outside the doors to New Bethel Baptist Church displaying the name of its future community center – the KL Simon Community Center.
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