Center honoring teen's memory set to open

Facility at church in Mount Airy offers recreation for ages 11-17

September 17, 2004|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

Created as a memorial to a South Carroll teenager, a youth center for local teens and pre-teens will open at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the basement of a Mount Airy church.

Members of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and others who knew Amanda Ingersoll have worked to establish the center after she died in December 2001 of complications from a car accident.

"The youth of the church came together and had a vision of a youth center in her name to keep her memory alive," said Nancy Landry of Woodbine, co-director of the project.

The center will be for youths ages 11 to 17.

Drop-in policy

"They will have free reign of the basement, for socializing and whatever else ... and they can play volleyball outside until it gets dark," said co-director Michele Ridgely of Sykesville, Ingersoll's mother. She said the center will abide by a drop-in policy that requires each youth to provide an emergency contact number and to sign a contract agreeing to certain rules before participating.

The final authorization necessary for the center to open came last week, when "everything cleared" and Howard County granted an occupancy permit, said the Rev. John Wilbur, pastor of St. Paul's.

The Amanda Center will be in St. Paul's parish life building, at 16457 Old Frederick Road, on property adjacent to the church.

"When Amanda suddenly died, I went to a few of the young people who were close to her, thinking it would be a good idea to convert the basement and use it as a youth center," Wilbur said. "The kids took it from there; they ran with it."

A Carroll County band, Infuseon, held a benefit concert for the project in 2002, raising several hundred dollars. Its members wanted to do something to "help people remember," said lead singer Mike Kane, one of Ingersoll's classmates.

Donations and grants were the main sources of funding for the center, along with a golf outing in June.

"We gutted the basement and rebuilt from concrete walls," said Landry, who enlisted volunteers to complete most of the work. Pinball machines, an air hockey table, board games and movies fill the basement. Students can use eight computers in an upstairs lab and basketball and volleyball courts outside.

Some neighbors objected to the project, expressing concerns during several public hearings, Ridgely said.

"They thought it was a good idea, but not in their back yard," said Wilbur, adding that neighbors were worried about the noise and did not want children who were not associated with the parish hanging around.

Persistence paid off

Efforts to establish the center proceeded, however, Wilbur said, adding, "We thought if the Holy Spirit wants this to happen, it will, and 2 1/2 years later, it has."

An open house was held Aug. 14 on what would have been Ingersoll's 19th birthday. About 50 people attended, Ridgely said.

"We have a lot of vision; we just need some staffing," she said.

Initially, the center will be open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month, but Ridgely said the organizers hope to add after-school hours and other programs such as a book club or mentoring.

"My daughter was so much into helping youth. She wanted to be a child psychologist," Ridgely said. "So, that's what we want to do, to help touch the lives of these kids in any way we can."

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