by Gladys Neigel
A yellow school bus stops at 3101 Spring Park Road in Jacksonville as 14 kids pour out of The Pulse Christian Youth Center to hop on board. These students come early to this bus stop in order to join in prayer and a short devotional worship at what they call their church. As they leave, each receives a granola bar, juice box, and banana to give them a good start for the day.
“Our mission is to help each one of these young people recognize they have a purpose, to find out what it is, and to pursue it for God,” says The Pulse Director Ed Wolanski who, with his wife Laura, volunteers 40+ hours a week. When they opened the youth center in 2009, they soon discovered many tangible needs of the young people as well as the intangibles. Located in a high-crime and low-income area, young people are often forced to go hungry. In order to meet this need, every evening program includes a meal.
The holistic approach is only part of this faith-based program which offers opportunities for Bible study and worship. Volunteers try to befriend young people who have learned to survive in the environment they live in and help them rise above the influences of their neighborhood.
Various programs offered by The Pulse include:
Evening Programs—Monday through Thursday, a program is developed especially for a designated age group: Pulse 912 (grades 9-12) on Mondays, Pulse 68 (grades 6-8) on Tuesdays, Pulse 45 (grades 4-5) on Wednesdays, and K3 Pulse (grades K-3) on Thursdays. Included in the evening’s programs are:
- Bible lessons that teach morals, life principles, and good citizenship.
- Bible-based discussions of the challenges facing young people today such as peer pressure, making right choices, sexuality and teen pregnancy, crime, and drugs.
- Group games teaching teamwork.
- A healthy dinner.
Academic Assistance—After-school tutoring for students and assistance completing homework and projects.
Computer Lab—Allows students access to the internet which may not be available at their home.
Library—Encourages reading with story times and quiet hours.
Field Trips—Outings to museums, parks, and community events provide opportunities for social, academic and cultural growth.
Sports—Encourages good, clean fun by organizing football, kickball, soccer, and other games in the neighborhood.
Saturday Nights—Safe and clean alternative for young people to enjoy games, movies, and theme nights such as guys-only or girls-only.
Several kids gave up their Christmas vacation to transform a storage area into a serving pantry. This new kitchen addition is helping streamline food service, teach more responsibility, and save on food costs.
Recently, The Pulse was given additional room to expand its operations and convert the space into a proper computer lab, separate library, reception area, and office. This space was donated rent free until the end of 2012, and Wolanski says, “We are confident the Lord will provide the funding when the rent comes due in January.
Since its inception, ministry at The Pulse has been kept alive through donations from those wanting to help at-risk kids have a better life. The Florida Conference Youth Department believes in this program enough to financially support approximately 20% of the operating budget. More information about this ministry, including promotional videos, can be found at facebook.com/thepulsechristianyouthcenter and www.thepulsechurch.org. The Pulse was also featured in the monthly Florida Conference In Mission video series for June 2012.