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New Community Hub Provides Alternative Space for Kids, Adults
Written by Kelly Chandler, Staff Writer
2013-07-17

Roth cuts a piece of molding as he workd on the coffee bar area, which opens this Friday. The former church is now home to a smoke-free, alcohol-free environment where kids, as well as adults, can  grab a bite to eat, listen to live music, shoot pool, play games, ping pong, read or just socialize.

        Scott Roth, people will tell you, has a knack for reaching kids.

        So when the 30-something pastor got involved in talks with Upper Perkiomen School District about needs in the community, following the suicide of a high school student back in 2011, he thought he could help.

        The district, working with the area churches and the Upper Perkiomen Valley Community Service Coalition, said they were looking for a facility to serve as a town(s) center.  It would not only host students after school as well as adults and families at night, but also function as a base for community projects.    

        And Roth, with more than a lion’s share of determination and some help, believed he could make it happen.

        In August 2012 his dream became a reality as he was handed the keys to the former Peace Mennonite Church on Main Street in East Greenville.  Thanks to a no-charge lease from Franconia Mennonite Conference, he soon got to work as the director of the new Upper Perkiomen Community Life Center.

        “It was huge,” Roth said of taking over the building.  “Everyone has been very excited.  This community has always needed a hub.  The school district had been the only thing uniting everyone.

        “Around here there isn’t a place where that special care is given.  I want kids to explore their interests and open their talents; to see who they’re meant to be.  I don’t want them to just be consumers; I want them to be creators.  We want their personalities to come out and rise up.”

        And it turned out that many of those kids were just as enthusiastic as he was.  Eleven students from the Upper Perkiomen High School community service class scraped, spackled, painted, did woodworking, cleaned and started building a coffee bar area. 

        “Scott came to our school and did an assembly,” said Keith Grass, Upper Perk Class of 2013, in an interview last month.  “His presentation was compelling.  It came at a time in my life when I was realizing that I wanted to help people.  I like the idea of community and bringing people together.”  

        Some of the brave students scaled the 20-foot scaffolding to paint the archway and ceiling.  Others went into the circa 1930 bell tower to clean the interior.

         “They worked very hard,” Roth noted.  “Those seniors helped build this place.”

        Members of the community, namely Steph Weidemoyer of East Greenville, also stepped up and recruited friends and family to plant the flowerbeds at the facility.

        This month, Roth, of Red Hill, and Assistant Director Beth Roth, no relation, have been wrapping up renovations at the facility, which included roof repairs and a full gut of the interior. 

        The final touches are being completed in the coffee bar area which opens this Friday.  The Alternative Brew, a bar alternative, Roth said, is a separate non-profit run by Sue Shoaf of Harleysville.  It will sport a smoke-free, alcohol-free environment where kids, as well as adults, can listen to live music, shoot pool, play games, ping pong, read or enjoy an assortment of wraps, salads, soups, chili and baked goods.

        It is open every Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m.-1 a.m. with a 17-and-older crowd only after 10 p.m.

        But a bar alternative isn’t the only thing brewing at the center.  The third Saturday of each month, through October, the center hosts a farmers' and crafters' market featuring local growers, juried artists and even a gourmet cupcake truck. 

        To date they have also participated in the Hometown Christmas event and Make Music Upper Perk, as well as solicited volunteers to help out at East Greenville’s recent cleanup day at the Colonial Village clubhouse.

        Plans are also in the works with the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library to look into the feasibility of building a “Please Touch” museum in a large mobile home in the rear of the community center.  

        And while he’s extremely busy, Roth said he is looking forward to continuing his partnership with area non-profits, the YMCA, municipalities, law enforcement agencies  and the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, to develop unity in the community and beyond through quality programs and offerings.

        “We don’t want to just think inside our own box,” he said.  “I want people to come with ideas.  Our community has so much potential. 

        “In a nutshell I want this world to be a better place in 13 years when my son graduates from Upper Perk.  He is starting his kindergarten year and my daughter is starting in three years…I have hope and I want to share that with others.”

        For more information on the Upper Perkiomen Community Life Center, visit www.thehavenonline.net; its Facebook page, “Project Haven”; or e-mail Director Scott Roth at scott@theprojecthaven.org.  

            
 

 

 

 

 

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