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Providing activities and a safe gathering place for youths ages 11 to 19 in Culver and Madras.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Zach Lewis is the new Youth for Christ director.Zach Lewis is the new Central Oregon Youth For Christ executive director, replacing Zak Caldwell, who had run the program for five years.

Lewis graduated from Boise Bible College in 2014, and worked four years at St. Luke's Health System in Meridian, Idaho, as the outpatient services supervisor. He and his wife, Candice, have moved to Madras.

"Our focus is on youths in Madras, Culver and Metolius, from age 11 to 19. There are a lot of kids who need a place where they can be safe and welcomed into a loving community, and our goal is to span the gap with Youth for Christ to provide such a place," Lewis said.

He said he was also captivated by, "The need in the local community for positive influence in the lives of the youth from adults, who are committed Christians."

Lewis said he had a passion to work with the youth of Central Oregon and to see them rise up to the challenge and commitment of being followers of Jesus and actively being involved in the community.

This year, the 509-J School District will be having numerous late-start Mondays, where school starts at 10 a.m.

"We'd like to get the word out that YFC is opening its doors, on those mornings, to provide a place for youths to come and be safe before school," he said, noting it will help parents who don't have anywhere to send their kids.

The Madras YFC "New Life" center, at 18 SE D St., is open Monday through Thursday. On Monday nights, the group meets at the Free Methodist Church for activities, a meal and a lesson.

With the help of six adult volunteers in Madras, he said they use the family group model. "Adult volunteers take kids into their small family groups and do activities together," he said.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 3-6 p.m., the Madras drop-in center is open for kids to hang out, enjoy the rec room or get tutoring help with homework. The rec room has pool, foosball and ping-pong tables, video games, a sound system, and small rock climbing wall.

Metolius and Culver are also included. Every Wednesday, from 3-4:30 p.m., Lewis goes to Culver High School to offer activities for Culver and Metolius youths. So far, he does not have any adult volunteers in that area.

Those interested in volunteering, or anyone wanting more information about the program can visit www.centraloregonyfc.org for details and schedules. The YFC office phone number is 541-475-6070.

Lewis said last year, the program had 30-40 kids, "but we lost 20 due to graduation, and we're trying to reach out to kids now." Currently, they have 15-20 kids attending in Madras, and 10-15 in Culver.

To reach kids he said, "I'm using social media, visits to schools at lunch time to get to know kids, and word of mouth."

"The Youth for Christ drop-in center is a safe place to come, have fun, plug into the community, and be cared for," Lewis said.

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