MIDDLEPORT -- Winding down after a grueling day at school has become a lot easier and safer for some local students, thanks to The Hub, a recently opened teen community center and after-school program.
Thomas Voelker, 15, has turned over a new leaf since he started going to The Hub. Before that, boredom led to trouble at times for the Royalton-Hartland High School 10th-grader.
He said he enjoys going to The Hub to listen to music and play pool.
"There's always something to do. There's a lot of cool kids. And it gives me someplace to go." he said
The program is held at 2:30 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 27 State St.
It's offered through One Big Bus Ministries, a youth program run by Hartland Bible Church.
The Hub, the ministry's latest addition, opened in the fall.
"We were kind of seeing a need within the community," said Cliff Sliger, associate pastor of student ministries and music for the church. "You drive through and see kids just kind of hanging out on the sidewalks in the wintertime and in the Laundromat because it's warm in there.
"There's not a lot to do. Some of [the young people] were causing trouble. Obviously, every town has its problems, but it's more of an annoyance."
The Hub attracts 30 to 50 students on a typical day and staffs as many as seven volunteers to watch over them.
The program offers activities such as basketball, skateboarding, board games, video games, an air hockey table, pingpong and pool.
Recently, Julie Hillman, 13, an eighth-grader, was playing pool with one of her friends. She was losing.
"I'm really bad at it," said Julie, adding with a smile, "Talking and socializing, I'm very good at."
So good, she said, that she sometimes gets detention for it. For her, The Hub has been a place that helps keep her out of those situations.
In addition to The Hub, One Big Bus Ministries offers programs such as Soul Fuel, a program for those in grades six through eight with games, songs and Bible study, and Overdrive, a similar program for senior high school students.
"We tend to focus a little more time on worship and the Bible study," Sliger said.
Zack Dunn, 13, sometimes attends Soul Fuel after he goes to The Hub.
"I think it's fun to learn about God and stuff," said Zack, who, like other students, appreciates the activities The Hub offers.
"It's like a free-for-all," he said. "It's fun, and it's really cool, because people I know come here."
The programs present God's word in a way that relates to each age group, Sliger said.
"We use a lot of small-group discussion and a lot of object lessons, examples and stories," he said, "then present it in a way that they can hopefully relate. God's word is our handbook for living. We take that and try to present it at their level, showing what God's expectations are and [how to live] out every day with Jesus at your side."
Anyone interested in donating items or making financial donations to One Big Bus Ministries can call 940-9868.