Saturday was a time of celebration and remembrance at —celebration of officially opening a building that will serve as an outlet and resource for New Rochelle youth, and remembrance of Horace Wilson, for whom the building is named.
Festivities began with the opening of the Horace J Wilson Jr. Youth Center, and was followed by a celebration with holy hip-hop artist J Prophet and songstress Keisha.
“Our youth ministry has been on hiatus for some time. And we wanted to start the new year with a concert to get the young people out,” said Rev. Donna Owusu-Ansah, who has been with the church since she was 14.
Although the building was dedicated in 2008, it took time to get the facility ready for occupants. It was named after the late Horace Wilson, a man who volunteered as a mentor instilling values in New Rochelle youngsters at Bethesda Baptist Church.
“He was a leader,” said Xavier Hutcherson of Mt. Vernon. “If one of the youth was in trouble, he would take time off of work to help. He did a lot for me. He would take me out places. If I needed clothes, he would buy me clothes. The thing that was great was that he would take the time to talk and make sure that [by the end of it,] something changed in you"—that the person he was helping would be OK.
The building will be used as the home of the Youth Church as well as all of Bethesda's youth activities, many which will occur on Fridays and Saturdays.
“We will have pool tables, ping pong tables ... we want this to be a place for the community where kids can come in and feel safe, and do things that are fun,” said Youth Pastor Minister Jack Thatcher.
Hutcherson, who is the current president of the New Rochelle NAACP Youth Branch, is looking forward to the building being utilized and spoke of Wilson's influence in his life.
“[Wilson] was a big part in this church. He was like one of my godfathers. I remember him since I was 5. I'd like to see spiritual growth in that building for all of the youth,” he said.
Rev. Owusu-Ansah said that the youth have so much potential.
“Any of the young people have no idea what they can become,” she said, adding that the building will be utilized for “Bible study and to hang out in fellowship with each other. A Wii and a Nintendo will be there. It is a place to keep them off the streets. We need to provide an alternative area for our youth,” she said.
“I'm very happy and proud of the fact that Bethesda is honoring my late husband in this way,” said Cheron Wilson of Yonkers. “He grew up a block from this church, and so this is his home. He was a very hardworking, dedicated person who spent countless hours with our youth.”
She hopes that others will be inspired to do good, and to try to help someone else along the way.