D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Lately it seems stories about South Mississippi teens accused of committing serious crimes like arson and robbery have dominated the headlines.
In fact, police are searching for two juveniles wanted in connection with beating and robbing an AT&T employee who was working in a Gautier neighborhood. WLOX wanted to tell you about a place where people are working to keep teens on the right track.
Whether they want to show off their dance moves, shoot some pool or just hang out with friends, Gulf Coast teens said The Warehouse is the place to be on Saturday night.
"I like coming here because it's a good time to hang out with my friends and play some basketball," said 13-year-old Dylan Greene.
The activity center in D'Iberville welcomes Middle and High School students. A year ago Youth For Christ joined forces with Harrison County to look for solutions for increasing problems with juvenile misconduct in the D'Iberville-St. Martin area. They needed a way to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.
"As community leaders, we have to have positive alternatives for our youth,"said Harrison County Supervisor Windy Swetman. "If we don't then we're going to see like what happened in Jackson County with kids in parking lots. You're going to see violence. We've got to give a place for them to go that's safe, that's supervised and that's affordable."
Halfway through the night, the fun and games stop for what's called half-time. It's then that Youth For Christ Director Brad Holt talks to the teens about choices, consequences and God's word.
"During the halftime tonight we're talking about idle time and how many students have idle time throughout the Summer," Holt said. "A lot of times they use that idle time to get in trouble, but God's word gives us direction on what we can do to stay out of trouble."
During the school year, Youth For Christ holds meetings on 16 Coast school campuses. There is also a ministry at the youth detention centers for the young people who've already started down the wrong path.
"It's important that if a kid messes up to extend grace because grace was extended to us," said Holt. "I have made many mistakes and I've been extended grace and so we can't just throw these kids away. We've got to reach out to them and offer them a positive alternative, offer them the Lord and then give them a place to serve. If you want to change the future of South Mississippi, then change the heart of a child."
The Warehouse is open on Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Officials said the center is well supervised and there are no areas where children can go and not be seen. Children are not allowed to leave until their parents pick them up.