A group of several dozen teenagers brandishing shovels may intimidate some—but not Dan Alban.
The youth pastor presided over the groundbreaking of Perry Hall Baptist Church's planned youth center on Wednesday night. The freestanding 52-by-90-foot structure could be completed as early as this summer, according to Alban.
"We've outgrown every other room but the sanctuary ... we've been packing them all in," he said.
The youth center, valued at more than $400,000, will rest behind the existing Schroeder Avenue campus, which includes the church and Perry Hall Christian School. Planners recently gained Baltimore County permits for construction to proceed, Alban said.
Alban described the center as less of a recreational facility and more of a "meeting place." It is expected to house the church's weekly youth group activities, in addition to after-school community programs and special events.
"I read a comment on Patch where someone asked, 'why are we building another Walgreens when what we need is a youth center?' It got me thinking. This could be a community center for anyone to use," he said.
Youth group members, including middle and high school students, hail mostly from Perry Hall, but also from White Marsh, Kingsville, Middle River and other surrounding communities. Just over half attend Sunday services at the church.
Fundraising for the center—primarily from church member donations—started gaining momentum in January.
"There's been such an outpouring from the community. The Lord has provided more money than we could have imagined," he said.
Perry Hall High School senior and youth group member Alex Barber helped make one of the videos shown to church members to encourage donations.
"I'm glad we're going to finally get a new space to have meetings," Barber said. "It will be a place to get away from the drama created in school, a place where you're not challenged or discriminated against."