His Place Family Enrichment Center grew from Pastor Brian Wickes’ (1980-1998) dream and the support of Alma Church of God leaders. The dream began when Brian was attending seminary. Through an internship he brought together a basketball team in Louisville, Kentucky. The team flourished and Brian aspired to pastor a visionary church and build a community outreach facility. He shared his dream with the Alma Church of God trustees and received a mixed reaction. But two events seemed to confirm God’s leading. Burnie Burlingame offered to sell the family-owned Body Shop adjacent to the church. It appeared that after much discussion at a business meeting, the building proposal would be defeated. Then Agatha Beard, an elderly lady, stood up and said, “the thing that will help this church is to reach out to meet needs in the community.” Her speech was the turning point and the congregation voted by a large margin to build the gym. On Sunday, September 18, 1983, His Place was dedicated to God in a service filled with 300 worshipers. Within four years the mortgage was paid and burned.
Joneen Wight was the first director from 1983-1996. Bill Price was hired as the custodian. His role evolved into so much more as he and Joneen worked to furnish and equip the facility with donated and purchased items for offices, kitchen and gym. They also set up the rules and developed programs like basketball and volleyball and the elementary after-school program, as well as special events like the Country Fair and International Night. Together they organized several Runathons that helped pay off the mortgage. They were both passionate about helping young people and families in our community.
In January of 1996 Chris Sipka took over as director. Chris had a degree in Health Physical Education and Recreation from Anderson College. She had served on the first His Place Board. She wanted to be a part of this outreach venture from the very beginning. Her experience directing Christian Education and instructing fitness classes helped prepare her for this role. She was thankful for Trish Wilson and Connie Bieske who assisted in the administration of all the activities. Chris says, “I couldn’t have done it without them and the His Place team who planned/evaluated and helped carry out the weekly programs and special events.”
As Chris Sipka retired, she passed the baton to Rev. Steve Karp as our new Director of His Place. Steve served from 2021-2022 and brought renewed life and energy, re-building ministries after they had to be briefly paused during the pandemic. He introduced a new logo and brought great enthusiasm for family ministry and launched pop-up day camps for kids. He also helped His Place with a remodel to add a much needed kitchen pantry. During this time we also welcomed Stephanie Leppien to the staff as the His Place Office Administrator who continues to bring energy and excellence to the ministries of His Place.
In May 2023, Katie Yourchock began her time with His Place as the Director. Katie is honored to carry on the laughter that has flooded the His Place hallways, pour her heart and soul into the different programming offered, create new opportunities for local residents, and grow mission based hearts within the community. Having a family of her own, she understands and cherishes the impact a community like His Place can have on so many.
His Kids is our elementary after-school program, serving kids in grades 2-5 within the Alma Public School District. The kids are picked up and brought to His Place where they play games, have a snack, sing songs, listen to a Bible story and do an application activity. Volunteers work as group leaders, bus/van drivers, and snack and craft organizers. We’ve been able to reach hundreds of kids through the years through this ministry and we are excited to keep it going for many more years to come.
The His Place team believed that there was a great opportunity to reach kids in the summer season through sports and creative camps. In the summer of 1996 we launched the first basketball camp directed by Christian coach, Kevin Skaggs, head Men’s Basketball coach at Alma College. Since then other Christian coaches have led Basketball, Soccer, and Volleyball camps. What a blessing to have these Christian Coaches share their love and knowledge of the sport and their love for Jesus with the kids! We also added Sue Stack’s unique “Camp What Ya Wannado”, which included the very popular “Cardboard Creations” and “Artrageous Kids.”
Basketball has been an avenue for building relationships that Pastor Brian aspired to from the very beginning. Men’s Open Rec at noon was very successful for about 13 years until Total Refinery closed, where most of the guys worked. Thursday night has replaced that time slot and is equally successful. We are grateful to Patrick Doherty and Garrett Whitmore who direct and participate in this mission today. Church League Basketball has brought together area churches on Monday nights for over 38 years. For many years this has been a fun night for the families with a concession stand and chairs to sit and cheer on family members and church teams. It continues today under Steve Karp’s leadership with 8 teams participating. The fun, athletics, and camaraderie between churches is enriching for individuals, churches, and families of our community.
One of the exciting things about the His Place ministry is how it has evolved with the resources of our staff and volunteers intersecting the needs of our community. Having a safe, warm, and welcoming place to walk has always been a feature of our fitness schedule. Friendships are developed as we walk and talk together daily. We have had as many as 5 different fitness classes and 7 instructors. We call it “Serious Fun” because it is! Our instructors are trained to design and lead a safe, FUN, and effective workout, followed by a short devotional tying together physical and spiritual insights. The classes are free and free childcare makes it possible for young moms to come exercise while their kids are well-cared for in the 2’s and 3’s room.
Coffee Time: Starting in September
Come sit awhile in our cozy Family Room and enjoy some specialty coffees, teas, smoothies, and other goodies along with great conversation… all for free!
Pickle Ball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. All ages and levels are welcome to play. Moving To Music is a time for Moms/Dads or grandparents to play with their pre-schoolers, move to music, and of course, make new friends!
Holiday Craft Show-every November the gym is filled with vendors and crafters selling their wares to Merry Christmas shoppers. You can even stop for a delicious lunch along the way. Directed faithfully by Shirley Wallace, all proceeds go to special mission projects. Our first annual Block Party took place in 2007 and continues to bring up to 500 people to our parking lot each September. With varying themes like Football Tailgate, Luau, or Carnival, it is full of fun for individuals and families of our community. Everyone is welcome to eat, play games and enter contests for door prizes. In the past we have had Runathons, International night, Game nights, Hoedowns, Luaus, Auctions, Winter Blast parties, Heart and Sole 5K races, Make a Difference Day, Cooking Classes, Dinner Theater, Wellness Seminars, and more. So keep watching our Schedule!
Our gym is used for family gatherings, banquets, open houses, and receptions. There is a rental fee for these events.
Although we don’t keep exact records, we have found that approximately 10% of our participants are from Alma Church of God and 90% from our community.