BALDWIN -- A coalition of local church leaders in Lake County have joined together to establish a community center in Baldwin.

Lake Fellowship, LLC., a non-profit formed by eight local pastors, has purchased the former CARES building on US-10, in Baldwin, with the intention of creating a center where families and youth can "fellowship with others and grow in their community," said Tim Alley, Pastor of Baldwin Assembly of God.

"We are eight different churches," Alley said. "We started praying together about three years ago, but our hearts for the youth of this community got us asking how we could start a ministry to reach out more to the community."

"The initial meetings were to create a peer group to support each other and fellowship," he continued. "But the needs of the community, and the call to minister to them overwhelmed our hearts and we began to pray for a community center."

Alley said the previous owners of the building wanted to see it continue to be used in ministry to the community and agreed to sell it to them for much less than the market value.

They set up the nonprofit and arranged for the purchase of the building.

"It was a huge gift, because they wanted to invest back into the community," Alley said.

The organization plans for the center to become a focal point for the community, where youth and families can come to grow in their faith and fellowship with others, while learning life skills and enjoying fun activities in the process, Alley said.

"We want to create a safe, caring environment to mentor and to help people on their journey in faith," said Bruce Whitney, Pastor at Baldwin Congregational Church. "We won't discriminate, however, as far as coming together and being part of the community. We will be open to everyone."

"Our goal is to have a true community center, open to everyone," Alley added. "We want to involve the whole community, and you don't have to be a Christian to come here."

Plans for the center include after school mentoring and tutoring, a youth activity center with ping-pong, pool and other games, an exercise area, cooking classes, a garden and a greenhouse and possibly a daycare center.

In addition, they are looking at providing a place for schools to send students to receive additional instructional intervention during the school day that is apart form the normal school setting.

"Different churches have, in the past, worked with the school to provide a place for students away from campus to receive additional education," Whitney said. "This could be that place for them now. A safe place where they can come for that intervention."

"We hope to bridge some gaps and reach out to the community," Alley added. "We want to administer to the whole family. We will have family activities to help show the importance of doing things together. There will be times for youth, times for adults, and times for families.

Programs may include help with public speaking, debate, drama and plays, and will include community activities for special events such as Easter programs, the Fall Sing-a-long, and other joint activities the churches have done in the past, Whitney said.

"One of the things God is calling us to do is to become the church outside of the building," Alley said. "We are hoping the community will come together to support it."

He added that they will need financial support, as well, and are working on a variety of fundraising ideas.

Right now, our budget is next to nothing," Alley said. 'We will need to raise money to pay for the building and the modifications that need to be done. We are looking at some different ideas."

Initially, there will be a yard sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 1 and Saturday, Aug. 2. In addition to raising funds for the project, the yard sale will help clean out the building of items that were left behind by the previous owner.

"We want to clean the building up as much as we can, and we need to remove a lot of things in order to make the necessary modifications to the building," Alley said.

Additional funding will come from grants, other fundraising events and monthly contributions from each of the congregations involved in the project.

"One of the things we want to do is to send the message that here at this place we are all one," Whitney said. "We may have different ideas and different traditions, but with those differences, we are still all one. It is a good thing to come together and learn about each other."

A community reveal is planned for Sunday, Aug. 16.

The congregations involved in the Lake Fellowship, LLC. include:

• Tim Alley, Pastor at Baldwin Assembly of God

• Andria Mitchell, Pastor at First Baptist Church of Ildewild

• Bruce Whitney, Pastor at Baldwin Congregational Church

• Connie Schumaker, Pastor at Chase Fellowship

• Lyle Ball, Pastor at Covenanct Community Methodist Church in Baldwin and Chase United Methodist

• Duane Roberts, Pastor at First Baptist Church of Woodland Park

• Rich Rybka, Pastor at Living Waters Fellowship in Baldwin

• Everett Bowen, Pastor at God's True Vine in Idlewild