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Sycamore Youth Center director: Facility doing its best to ‘redeem the time’

STORY TIME — Bobbyjon Bauman, founder and director of the Sycamore Youth Center in Steubenville, has been recording “Storytime at Sycamore”’ segments in which he reads stories from an illustrated children’s Bible that he has been posting on Facebook each day at 10 a.m. so students from the Sycamore Center, especially the Sonshine Bible Club, will be able to receive some Bible training while the center is closed, due to precautions being taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic. -- Contributed

STEUBENVILLE — As is the case for many, the COVID-19 coronavirus has thrown the Sycamore Youth Center a curve.

The facility at 301 N. Fourth St. that provides a variety of free afterschool programming for area youth is minus its normal bustle of people and activities in the wake of government-mandated precautionary efforts.

Finances have been impacted as well.

“We at Sycamore are doing our best to ‘redeem the time’ and do our best to reach out to students in any way we can,” noted Bobbyjon Bauman, founder and director of the center and president of the Ohio Valley Youth Network, in an e-mail communication.

The OVYN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that runs the Sycamore Youth Center, providing afterschool programming for more than 200 students throughout the week. Volunteer-run classes there cover everything from sewing and art to music and tutoring.

“Our hope and prayers are with them, and we will do our best within what we are allowed to do according to the law to reach all the students we can, and I really look forward to working with the kids again,” Bauman noted.

The OVYN/Sycamore Youth Center was on the verge of holding its annual fundraising banquet on March 12 at Steubenville High School’s Commons when Gov. Mike DeWine’s initial order was issued to ban public gatherings of more than 100 people.

“We ended up having to cancel our banquet a few hours before it was to take place because of the governor’s order to not have more than 100 people assemble in one place,” Bauman noted. “The food was already cooked, and we had to pay for it so we ended up canceling the banquet and had people get the food to go and leave a donation. Last year we made $23,000 at this banquet, which we used to fund our programs for the Sycamore program. This year we only cleared $2,000, which is a $21,000 drop in income,” he noted.

The banquet is free with no tickets sold, but the evening does, however, present an opportunity for those attending to give.

“Lord willing, we are thinking of having the banquet again later in the spring or early fall,” he continued. “We had at one point 480 people signed up to attend the banquet, but that number dropped to around 200 who attended because of the COVID virus, so in other words, this clearly impacted us financially.”

The banquet was to have included performances by the Valley’s Got Talent winners; an update on the OVYN and Sycamore Youth Center; and the presentation of two awards with Jefferson County Joint Vocational School senior Daniel Sammut to receive the OVYN Fellowship of Christian Athletes Student of the Year Award and Courtney Gaston of Indian Creek Middle School being honored as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Adult Leader of the Year.

The governor’s order that all community centers be closed means the center is unable to hold classes with its students, Bauman explained.

Some online classes through Facebook are an attempt to fill the gap, and include Stamp It Up, guitar lessons and Bible stories.

“I also have been videotaping ‘Storytime at Sycamore’ segments in which I have been reading stories from an illustrated children’s Bible that I have been posting on Facebook each day at 10 a.m. so the students from the Sycamore Center and especially the Sonshine Bible Club will be able to receive some Bible training like we do every Monday and Tuesday,” Bauman explained.

“We also are looking to start feeding students to-go light meals/snacks April 6-10 since the school, as far as I know, will not be providing meals at that time. I have written an emergency grant to do this and should hear back soon,” he added.

“We also had to postpone the Kathy Troccoli concert which will now take place May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Wintersville United Methodist Church Center for Hope and the Faire Mae concert for May 22 and the Painting for a Purpose event for May 9 at 6 p.m.,” he noted.

The Troccoli concert was to have been held March 24 at the new Center for Hope, located at 702 Main St., Wintersville. Troccoli’s three-decade career includes 24 recordings, 18 No. 1 radio hits, 19 Dove Award nominations, two Dove Awards and three Grammy nominations.

In addition to her success in Christian music, she “has made quite an impact in the mainstream arena as well,” according to promotional material, scoring a No. 1 hit with “Everything Changes” as well as a top 10 single with the iconic Beach Boys, titled “I Can Hear Music.”

Bauman anticipates possibly reopening classes at the Sycamore Center on April 13.

“Since the shutdown, Pamela and I have written six grants which I had been trying to get to for a while but I was just too busy to get done since I’ve been working with the students each day,” Bauman said of his and his wife’s efforts at grant writing.

For information on the center, text or call Bauman at (608) 556-3068.

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