A building that once was a place for people to expand their minds through reading is now a place where the youth in the community can grow both physically and spiritually.
The former Geneseo Public Library building was bought in October 2011 by Bob Pettit and is now home to The Call to Victory Christian Youth Center.
“I was looking for batting cages, approximately 2,000-square feet, but everything I was finding was bigger than that,” said Pettit. “I am a strong supporter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and I asked Dan Pearson, co-director of ILLOWA FCA, if he saw a need for FCA to have a center where they could consolidate and have a central place for the huddles.”
“There are only a handful of individual huddles that have their own building like this, so this is truely unique,” said Pearson. “It is a building, but we want to draw people to Christ and what it means to have a relationship with Christ.”
The Call to Victory Center provides meeting spaces for groups, FCA huddles, which include early morning, seventh-hour early release and evening huddles, which are located in the former Hammond Room; batting cages for teams, located in the former adult section of the library, and a multi-purpose space for movies, workouts and games, which is in the former childrens’ section.
“We are all drawn in some way to sports, whether you played when you were in school, coached, are currently competing in a sport or a parent of an athlete,” said Pearson. “So to combine athletics and faith it is just a good fit.”
“We are not trying to take away from the church and youth groups,” said Pettit. “We are just trying to strengthen those and catch the people who might not fall into those groups. It is the same thing with the physical aspect with the batting cages and our workout space, we are not taking away from the other facilities, but we are just trying to give people another option.”
Right now, the scheduling for use of the The Call to Victory Center is run through Pettit and there must be adult supervision while the facility is in use.
“We are trying to fill every hour, but it is all on a volunteer basis,” said Pettit. “This is a place that is not just for high-school students, but middle-school students and even youth softball teams have used the batting cages.”
“The center is a great option for people in the community to use, and we encourage churches to have small group meetings here,” said Pearson.
The first event held at the center was during the Jingle Bell Run, which used the facility for sign up and the awards ceremony, but the batting cages had been open before that.
Pearson said the interest in the center has really picked up and people are continuing to figure out what is going on at the center. The center is used at some point everyday.
“The center has been well-received and the faith community has been thrilled, but there are still a lot of questions,” said Pearson. “So I encourage people to stop by to see what is going on. The best times are from 3:30 p.m. to about 8 p.m. This building is a model for what other communities could have.”
“We are letting the young people in the community decide how they want to use the facility because we want to make sure they come,” said Pettit of his visions for the future. “Our primary goal is to provide physical and social aspects and then interject the spiritual aspects.”
“I would like to see that we don’t have to lock the doors much because we have activities going on from 8 a.m. into the evening,” said Pearson. “We can even use the center as a place for people to gather after football or basketball games.”
“Our next phase is to try to have the center open everyday at 2 p.m., but we need to have volunteers to monitor the center,” said Pettit. “Our goal is to have an opportunity so people have a place to go and come hang out.”
“I would tell people to keep their eyes open because we are always looking for input,” said Pearson. “We also are looking for options for things to do in the summer. The center will not close when the school year ends.”
“The community is so behind us with donations and volunteerism, I couldn’t be more grateful, and we will continue to need those,” said Pettit. “I am very pleased with the start and with the way people have accepted and supported it.”
“The donations have been great,” said Pearson. “Bob is so committed on a personal level with the children and is so connected to the community that his faith plays out in what he does.”
Pearson said having the center has really opened the door to what FCA is, which has been around since 1954. It also is allowing parents to take ownership in FCA because their children are involved.
“We are blessed and we are just letting God do his thing,” said Pearson. “It has been fun to watch it unfold and we have come a long way. The kids know about it and it has been fun to watch the kids come through the doors. Our goal for FCA is to direct children to churches.”