When children, teens and young adults meet for various activities at in Lemon Grove, they gather at the original rectory that was constructed in 1939.
This year, proceeds from the parish’s annual Fall Festival—which kicks off Friday afternoon—will go toward a new facility for youth, as well as the church's charities.
Youth Director Steve Browne is hoping for a great turnout.
“I think when we donate locally and help locally, we make small steps to make changes globally,” Browne said.
Currently, three youth groups for junior high school students, high school students and young adults use the building.
Because the groups are nondenominational and open to everyone, Browne said the center has become a safe harbor for youth in Lemon Grove and the surrounding communities. About 80 high school students attend the youth group each week, he said, and many of them do not attend the church.
“It makes a huge difference to the community of Lemon Grove because we’re an open youth center, meaning the kids that come here may not be Catholic or of any faith,” he said. “We feel that we’re providing a safe environment for them to come to and that’s how it’s grown.”
Browne said the church plans to completely remodel the facility so that it is a multifunction building instead of a “hodgepodge.” Plans include larger meeting spaces, handicap bathrooms and a possible outdoor amphitheater.
“We make a difference here,” said Browne, who has been the youth director since 1994. “I think by having a better facility, we’re not only going to be able to do more, we’re going to be able to have more space and hopefully be able to reach more people.”
Browne said the approximate cost of the project is $800,000. More than half of the funds have already been raised by donations and last year’s festival, he said.
Festival Chairwoman Tammy Graham said organizers hope to raise $50,000 during the three-day event. The festival had about 2,000 attendees and raised roughly $34,000 last year, she said.
The festival has been a church tradition for more than 50 years, Graham said.
This year, the annual event will be set up differently to alleviate noise that prompted complaints from the senior facility adjacent to the property. Bales of hay will also act as a sound barrier, she said.
“We want everybody to be happy; we don’t want anybody to be unhappy,” Graham said. “We’re trying to keep this a community effort.”
Festival attendees are sure to be pleased. In addition to the usual games, rides, music and food, the free event will also feature a laser maze and a laser light show.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the people get together from Lemon Grove and other cities,” Graham said. "Everybody has a good time."
The Fall Festival will take place 5-10 p.m. on Friday, noon-10 p.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sunday at St. John of the Cross Catholic Church, 8086 Broadway.