Currently serving as a safe haven for pigeons, the Unity Center, which once provided a secure place for youth to hang out and a venue for local bands to play, may be reopening its doors.
Roswell residents Casey and Heidi Key hope to renovate and reinstate the Unity Center as a youth ministry to provide Roswell teenagers with a positive, faith-based environment. The Keys have been involved in ministry at their parish, Tabernacle Baptist Church, for more than four years.
City officials condemned the building, which hosted the Unity Center, in April 2010 due to safety concerns. The Roswell City Council approved asbestos abatement and the removal of lead-based paint from the building in July as part of the city’s 2011-2012 fiscal budget, according to City Manager Larry Fry, who said $100,000 was allotted for the cleaning.
The total cost ended up being $96,849, according to Mike Mathews, who is with special services for the city. Mathews said the work was 99.9 percent completed. Once the cleaning of the building is completed, it will be up to the City Council to determine the future of the building, according to Fry.
Born and raised in Roswell, Casey and his wife saw a need in the community to improve the day-to-day lives of Roswell teens. Also seeing a need for something to come out of the neglected building, Casey said he and Heidi would be able to help both necessities if they are given permission to buy the property.
The Keys would like to buy the property in order to demolish the dilapidated structure, save for one tower, and create a new center. They would like the center to be open 24 hours a day if possible. Casey has created a proposal with his visions for the renovated center which include a two-story gym and auditorium, a rock climbing wall and several classrooms. His goals for the center include providing a place for entertainment, counseling and teaching biblical truths. Additionally, Casey said he would like to hold concerts at the center featuring Christian music and have a recording studio for local bands.
Although the project is ambitious and would require not only approval from the council but also a large amount of funding, Casey said, “Faith gets things done.”
It was faith that inspired Casey, on a ministry road trip to Alaska with Heidi, to begin writing a series of Christian youth fiction books which would serve as the main source of funding for the project. His first book, “Fair Weather,” which is published and on shelves, is based on the events in the Book of Revelation and tells the story of four teenagers and their experiences during their last days on Earth. His second book is currently in editing, and Casey is in the process of writing the third, and final, book in the series. Casey wants to use all the proceeds from the sale of his three books to open the ministry.
“I hope we’ll be able to help all kinds of kids, and provide services such as counseling, Alcoholics Anonymous and drug abuse therapy. The kids need somewhere to go to feel safe,” Heidi said.
Less than two years ago, the Keys founded Lighthouse Ministry, a nonprofit organization with a focus on home-based ministry. Casey is the president of the organization and Heidi is the vice president. The goal of the organization is to show the love and power of Jesus Christ to the surrounding community, according to the organization’s website. The site was also created to attract awareness about the Keys’ vision to establish a citywide Christian youth center in the heart of Roswell, and as an additional outlet for people to buy Casey’s book in order to contribute to this vision.
Casey said he does not want to replace the role of family in a teenager’s life by creating the youth center. “Lives are hectic. The center would focus on teens and give them direction in life and bring them closer to their families.”
For more information about Lighthouse Ministry, go to www.lighthouseofroswell.com