The Alpine Youth Center, long overdue for a facelift that was in discussion before the COVID-19 pandemic landed, finally reopened its doors to the community during an all-day opening celebration.
President of Behold Christian Ministries Randall Torres stood in the freshly repaved driveway, looking over the neatly placed ping-pong table, barbecue station and game table, ready to welcome Alpine families to the youth center that was, he said, actually better off for having been closed through the pandemic.
“This terrible thing, all the closures from COVID, actually gave us a chance to work behind closed doors and get things done like meeting fire code, making sure things are ADA-approved so we now have a handicapped parking space and everything is accessible,” Torres said.
The building, long supported by the Dyke family that charged little to no rent for the space, had previously been open to the community but it needed major updates.
Local Fire Marshal Jason McBroom “took the time to come in and say exactly what needed to be done in order to meet code,” and they were given clearance on Wednesday to open in time for the weekend.
Randall later said it ended up being a day “full of kindness” with about 20 kids running around at any given moment throughout the day-long grand opening.
The center, Randall said, is primarily geared toward young tweens and teens, especially “middle schoolers who need a safe place to hang out” but even older teens had a great time, “grouping up in little pockets” around the building.
The silent auction featuring personal art collections from Tom Dyke was spread out on tables so statuettes of eagles and wildlife stood together alongside Native American and Indigenous pieces, collectible plates and paintings grouped nearby, with a different section entirely for framed artwork.
“The auction went really well, everything got sold. People coming through didn’t care about buying stuff, they just wanted to keep the vision alive, support the community. I was overjoyed by the friends of Tom Dyke who stopped by, all the stories that were shared, the goodness and generosity,” Torres said.
The barbecue was also a success, he said, with Fred’s Burgers given out to hungry teens who were happy to enjoy a fresh-grilled burger, or two.
“Bo was very generous in donating all the burgers,” Torres said, and he is grateful to Pastor Robert Davis for cooking all day long, even as some teens came back for a second helping of food.
“They’re always hungry, right?” Torres asked.
The center’s biggest challenge now, he said, is securing a reliable stream of volunteers. They will be open from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, “with some flexibility to go a little later in summer as the sun sets later” and would like to screen some older teens as supervisors who can connect with the younger crowd.
“My back is killing me from standing and walking all day on Saturday,” Torres said, laughing.
The Alpine Youth Center is located at 2153 Arnold Way in Alpine.