Thursday, April 16, 2009
Word of Life vision unfold offering renewed hope to distressed area
If Jacato Drive, once called New Jack City, has a negative image in some circles, a local church wants to do its best to refute that perception.
Rev. R. L. Woods pastor of Word of Life Worship Center which is located near Stone Coral on Rapids Drive says that they want to infuse renewed hope into the infamous area. “The bottom line is that for a long time we really have been pushing for change on Jacato Drive. We have been involved with the residents inviting them to our family events. We have several programs that we feel can improve the neighborhood.
The small north side church converted the once Paradise North bowling alley into a massive Community Family Life Center. This is the first of its kind among African-American churches. The two-year project was hatched from the vision of the Woods Family. His vision dates back to early 2000. “The vision I had back in 1999-2000 was Randalls the old grocery store which closed.” The store was located near Old Country Buffet., “I said to myself, now what would be nice to go in there?” That thought stayed etched in his head until five years ago when the bowling alley closed.
The realization of the complex was accomplished without any outside resources. “We did not get any funding from the city for anything we did, not a dime,” he said.
His church has about 100 members, and volunteers put the final touches on the Life Center. He says the new facility located at 2915 Romayne Ave., will be a gathering place for all ages.
Word of Life Church, which he founded with his wife, has used a portion of the building for its worship space since shortly after the bowling alley closed in 2004. Woods said the church and Life Center extends over 40,000-square-feet.
Doors to soon open
Soon he will have completed all phases of the Center. Woods says the facility will house both educational and recreational programs and will eventually be opened to the public.
He and his wife beamed with smiles as they showed about 150 guests the changes. “Workers have added and subtracted walls so what was once a hallway is now a fitness room”. They have also built a skating rink, a film room with soundproofed walls and a recreation room. A miniature golf course is in the works.
Four bowling lanes remain from Paradise North. The rest were gutted to make way for a play area, where Woods envisions children’s theater productions and a miniature city. “They can jump in their battery-powered car and go to the play store,” Woods said.
He says that the African-American community needs to be more self-reliant and stop saying no to their dreams.
He said that he and his wife always thought big even while the couple led the church with five members out of a storefront on College Avenue in Downtown Racine.
The renovations have totaled at least $150,000, suggested Wood. The church initially applied for community development block grant money but didn’t make the city’s cut. So the funding came from private donors and church funds, he said. Many volunteers chipped in, but Woods singled out William Scott as a construction worker who has put in many hours.
Woods is confident the lack of worldly music won’t scare the youths away. He said skating rinks, for example, draw heavily from church youth groups. “By this being faith-based, it’s going to have a different atmosphere about it,” he said.
Word of Life has begun to re-establish relationships with the residents of nearby Jacato Drive. Racheal Woods hopes residents can use the center as a safe haven from trouble.