GREEN BAY — Next month, From Above Youth Center and Bakery will mark the one-year anniversary of its opening. Carrie Zehms founded the nonprofit organization to provide a safe, Catholic faith-based environment for middle and high-school aged youth to gather for fellowship and fun.
Youth activities will continue to be offered, but the center will feature a more family-centered approach moving forward, she said. The family events have been the most popular.
“We did St. Thérèse’s feast day. We had a Marian Monday and some open house events,” said Zehms. “We scheduled a pizza and karaoke night. Mostly Catholic families attend, but we are open to all faiths.”
The center formerly had a youth director, but the position had to be eliminated due to finances. Volunteer opportunities are available to qualified individuals interested in working with Catholic youth.
Volunteers who work with young people will be required to complete VIRTUS (safe environment) training through the Diocese of Green Bay. Volunteers are also sought to help expand the bakery hours. Zehms currently serves Monday through Friday.
“I know that if we were to open up a few hours on Saturday, that we would generate more business,” she said. “If I can find somebody who is willing to volunteer, somebody who is responsible, that would be great. We could be open for a few hours on Saturdays, maybe 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
Revenue from the bakery supports the youth center. Zehms continues to fill orders for baked goods for groups and special events. She also shares her passion for baking as a form of outreach.
“We did a cupcake class for the Key Club event for Notre Dame (De Pere) and Our Lady of Lourdes (De Pere),” she said. “The sixth grade girls came in to learn how to decorate cupcakes.”
Various baked goods, treats, coffee and other beverages are available for purchase at the storefront —1599 Western Ave. — throughout the week. The space behind the bakery is available for meetings, classes, baby showers and other events.
“We can even host funeral luncheons,” said Zehms, a member of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. “We can hold up to 75 people. The food can be catered in. It’s a very homey atmosphere with games for the kids and a nice sitting area. When people go to restaurants, they have to worry about the kids running around. We have a safe place for kids to play.”
A Gnomes Game event is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 21. For event listings, visit www.face book.com/From-Above-Youth-Center-and-Bakery. All From Above sponsored events begin and end with prayer.
In addition to the family events, successes during this inaugural year are the people who have walked through the door, including many who are not Catholic, said Zehms. A homeless man, for example, was a regular during the non-winter months.
“He was bringing me apples and things in exchange for coffee,” she explained. “I said, ‘Just come in to get coffee, get a muffin.’ You see the image of Jesus in the people.”
Another regular is a woman who has dealt with health problems.
“She can’t work, so it gives her a place to go. She loves standing back by the picture of the Virgin Mary from the Shrine (of Our Lady of Good Help). It puts her at peace. She comes in and decorates cookies,” said Zehms. “One day, she walked all the way over here from (her residence on) Mason Street. She was upset about something and just wanted to talk to me.”
To explore volunteer opportunities at From Above Youth Center and Bakery, call (920) 494-3253. In addition to kitchen, bakery and youth event volunteers, someone with grant writing experience is needed. To provide support, visit www.fromaboveyouthcenterandbakery.com.
An auction to benefit From Above will be held on Sunday, April 17. Bidding begins at noon. Credit and debit cards will be accepted. The auction event will include a 50/50 raffle, hamburgers, hot dogs, walking tacos, baked goods and beverages.