AFTER TWO years of renovation, the little brown church on Old B&A Boulevard in Old Severna Park, built in 1926 as St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, officially opened Sunday as the Holy Grounds Youth Center and Coffee House.
The center was opened to provide a safe place for teen-agers to go on Friday night instead of just "hanging out."
The center, next to Woods Community Center, was renovated with money from Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church and the community, and with thousands of hours of volunteer time.
A plaque inside the entrance lists almost 60 individuals and organizations who contributed not less than $1,000 or 100 hours.
The cost of labor (licensed electricians and plumbers were hired) and materials to bring the building up to modern safety standards doubled the estimated price tag of $60,000.
"The center was refurbished by the youth for the youth," said Woods Community Center director Barbara Birkenheuer. The center's temporary coordinator is the Rev. Dave Huusko, Woods Church youth pastor. He works with a committee of teens from several organizations. The first official Friday night program for high school students, which includes live music, is tomorrow from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
"There have already been a couple of programs on Friday to test the facility," explained the community center director. "The sophomore class at Severna Park High had a fund-raiser there for a young boy who needed a bone marrow transplant.
"Another Friday night we had a program for youth groups from the local churches.
"Actually, the after-school program for middle school students moved into the center nearly two months ago," explained Birkenheuer.
This program, directed by Gene Mortorff, gives parents an option if their youngsters would otherwise be going home to an empty house. Students from Severna Park Middle School arrive by bus for the 2: 30 p.m. to 6 p.m. program, while students from Severn School and St. John can walk. About 35 students are enrolled. Tuition is $45 per week, which includes tutoring provided by Americore through Anne Arundel Community College.
To help finance the costs of daily maintenance, the center is available for rental by other groups: book clubs, bridge clubs, and meetings of many kinds that promote the mission of Woods Church to support the community.
"We encourage people to come and look at the building, especially if you were in it in the past," said Birkenheuer. "You'll see why we're so proud."
For information, call 410-647-5843.
Pub Date: 2/05/98