History Of The Weirton Christian Center
On May 9, 1909 (the same year that Ernest T. and David Weir and J.C. Williams founded the Weirton Steel Company), Weirton local Mrs. Mollie Wilkens Owings organized a small Baptist Sunday School under an apple tree on Avenue B within blocks of the new mill. This work would soon become Weirton’s First Baptist Church. A ministry began for all the children and their families who had come from many cities and nations to Weirton to seek a better life.
In 1917 the Women’s American Baptist Home Mission Society sent the first missionary to Weirton to work with the Baptist group to help meet desperate community needs. Mrs. Olive Lord served as that first missionary (1917-1918) and is credited as the founder of the Weirton Christian Center. During those first five years, Christian Center activities were held in local homes and in three houses on Avenue D donated by the Weirton Steel Company. Programs were designed to assist the immigrants who came to work in the mill. By 1922, with help from Weirton Steel, the first part of the Center was erected on Avenue D (adjacent to the original First Baptist Church building).
The Weirton Christian Center soon became the “Community Center” for immigrants new to the area. The center taught English and Citizenship courses and administered immunizations at the health clinic. Over the years, Senior Citizens and other groups met in the club room, high school graduations and other events were held in the gymnasium, and there was even an outdoor pool at the Christian Center. During the 1950s the Center began to emphasize individual-centered programs and established outposts primarily for kindergarten in various locations in the town. The high school boys had a basketball league, and the afterschool program offered dance lessons, drama and plays, formal dances, Bible studies and more.
When kindergarten was added to the public school system in the 1970s, the Center converted its kindergarten to a preschool program. In 1979 due to the declining neighborhood and the deteriorating condition of the building, the Center moved from Avenue D to its present location at 3012 Elm Street, again choosing a neighborhood of great need.
The Christian Center is a recognized mission project of the West Virginia Baptist Convention (American Baptist Churches, USA). The center is one of only 17 Neighborhood Action Program projects sponsored by the Board of National Ministries of the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. Funding for the Center comes through the West Virginia Baptist Convention and National Ministries with considerable support of the Weirton United Way as well as individuals both local and national.
The Center Today
We now offer Preschool classes Monday-Thursday from 9 AM to 1 PM for four-year olds, and from 12 to 3 PM for 3-year-olds. Classes are led by teachers Billie Jo Carroll, Jana Morehead, Linda Dowling and Katie Woods. The developmental curriculum involves hands-on stations to not only meet state standards but also reinforce Christian values. Ms. Jana supervises computer time for each age group, providing instruction on ABC Mouse to add to their education. We follow the Hancock County School calendar and there is no tuition, only a one-time registration free of $25 for materials. We provide lunch daily and transportation to and from class. This program is supported by our generous donors.
We transport our children to and from Preschool, to and from Tri-State Christian Academy, and once the buses bring them to us from Hancock and Brooke County Schools, we transport them home. We are blessed by the Be United In Christ Outreach Ministries to be able to have four 15-passenger vans and two 8-passenger vans.
The Afterschool program offers a safe haven for children from kindergarten through Middle School, with a leadership program for high school students. We provide dinner daily, snacks, homework help, tutoring and many opportunities for them to grow. Informational classes with are held to educate them on healthy food choices, fitness, drug abuse, violence prevention, safety, self-reliance and responsibility.
Our Signs of Hope Group was just restarted when one of our first members taught all the newest kids how to sign “I Can Only Imagine”.