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Giving kids a safe place to hang out at night and someone to talk to if they want is the goal of a Riverside church that plans to open a coffeehouse on Tonawanda Street.

The T-Street Lighthouse at 894 Tonawanda will be open from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays beginning this week.

"There are a lot of kids hanging out on the streets, and we want to give them someplace to go and something to do," the Rev. Ronald Thorington, pastor of Victory Assembly of God Church, said this week.

He said the atmosphere will be decidedly "unchurchy," but there might be Scripture readings or other activities with a spiritual side. And the Lighthouse will be a coffeehouse/counseling center, with people available to listen to the teens' concerns, he said.

"But it will be very low-key," Thorington said. "The idea is to be a friend to a kid, and if they want to share something in the course of that friendship, we will try to help. But if it's a serious matter, we will refer it to someone more qualified to help."

He said the church leadership decided in January to start the coffeehouse, and it took until now to find a suitable location: a rented former hairdresser's shop.

At least three adults will be present at all times. Refreshments, including coffee and soft drinks, will be available, and the sponsors hope to bring in some live music in addition to recorded music.

The Common Council has approved a zoning variance for the facility, and about a dozen neighbors attended a meeting Saturday to discuss possible concerns.

One concern was security and the possibility of problems outside the facility. That is something the sponsors will keep an eye on, and they won't hesitate to call the police if necessary, Thorington said. "Actually, we welcome the police -- in a friendly way -- so they and the kids can get to know each other."

Both Thorington and North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. said they felt most residents' concerns were addressed at the meeting.

"I think they're going in the right direction," Golombek said of the Lighthouse.

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