Local woman seeks to help youth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Rev. Darlene Pickett sees beauty in places other people have overlooked.

The former Zion Chapel No. 2 African Methodist Episcopal church mission at 7 Quitman St., was overgrown, abandoned and in shambles. But for Pickett the building was an answer to a nearly 20-year-old promise.

“God told me I was going to pastor my own church,” she said. “This is where that promise will become reality.”

Pickett purchased the building and is in the process of restoring the 133-year-old church to be used as an education center and church location focused on reaching youth. She plans to call it Christ Community Church.

“When I was a child and mother said to go out and play, I knew how to go outside and play,” she said. “Children today don’t know how to go outside and entertain themselves. To them being outside means sitting on a street corner and possibly getting into trouble.”

Pickett, a 28-year veteran math educator, sees this as her opportunity to not only give children a supportive atmosphere but also a place where those children can learn skills.

In addition to hosting a full schedule of church services and Bible study meetings, the church will be used as an education center that will host learning sessions with skilled workers, Pickett said.

“I’m looking for volunteers to come in and teach these children about their skills such as carpentry, electrical work, plumbing or even some types of exercise, anything that might spark their interest and make them say ‘I want to do that,’” Pickett said.

She will also offer a daily tutorial program.

But before the fun can begin much work must be done.

Pickett said the church was abandoned by its congregation several years ago and the building began to deteriorate. Windows were broken. Wood left exposed to the weather rotted. A portion of the foundation was undermined. The ceiling is collapsing in places. The building had even become a place of shelter for a local homeless man.

But Pickett was not deterred.

“My dreams are as big as my God, and I serve a big God,” she said.

“The first time I walked through here after buying the building, there was not a path to the back of the building because of all the trash,” she said. “And now, for someone who didn’t see where we started from, it may be hard to see the progress, but we’ve made a lot of progress in just two weeks.

“The Lord has put this path in front of me, and He is leading me.”

Pickett said she hopes to have at least a portion of the ministry up and running before the school year ends, because the need to reach the community’s youth is urgent, she said.

“I have seen so many young guys end up in the juvenile system because they didn’t have anything constructive to do,” she said. “I’m still young enough that I can help. I need to get out there and work to prevent that.

“We have a large group of teenagers that have no skills, no motivation and nothing telling them that they can do better.”

Pickett plans to reach that group and provide for them both mentally and physically with the educational and occupational programs she plans to offer, but also spiritually though the church ministry programs.

“This is a place where the physical and spiritual come together, and what happens when that happens is God’s work,” Pickett said.

Pickett is counting down the days until she can stand behind the pulpit and look out at her congregation and know she is fulfilling God’s plan for her.

“There are no words to describe how excited I am,” she said. “The Lord has blessed me with this opportunity. The entire process has been smooth, that is how I know the Lord is doing this.”