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Keeping the Faith: Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church

Our special series Keeping the Faith looks at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
Our special series Keeping the Faith looks at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City. The church has placed a fresh emphasis on reaching youth in the community.

Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial's roots date back to the late 1800s when the church started off in an Endicott-Johnson shoe factory. The church on Main Street, near Wilson Hospital, was built in 1927 by George F and C Fred Johnson. In its heyday, there were more than 1,000 members. As times have changed, so have the number of people in the pews. However, the changing times and neighborhood has presented an opportunity to reach out to youth.

"That is part of our call as Christians, that we are here to change the atmosphere. We are here to change the atmosphere, to bring light into dark places and help people have epiphanies that are life changing," said Reverend Cardin.

Reverend Patricia Cardin helped find the Dream Center in the mid-2000s at Sarah Jane. The goal is empower young people and help them broaden their horizons while keeping them out of trouble and gangs. The Center has had an after school program, which is currently on hiatus, as its popular basketball program expands. It also spear-headed an ongoing bicycle drive that has given away 900 bikes, which the Southern Tier Bicycle Club has refurbished.

"The biggest reward for me is taking a kid, who is a really great kid, but is surrounded by influences in the neighborhood and is maybe beginning to be pulled by those and helping that kid get back on track and on the college track," said Cardin.

One of the success stories is Michael Myers, 17. He came here three years ago from California, where there is a heavy gang culture.

"I used to get in trouble a lot. I used to get in trouble on the streets with the cops and stuff. I started coming here and I got out of trouble," said Myers. "It's awesome. It's a good experience for any kids in the area to come to."

"I feel like I've gotten more mature , because we get to be around other kids. Since I'm older, I get to help with most of the younger kids so that gives me a sense of maturity," said Keyanna Banks, 16.
    
Sarah Jane also has a youth group that meets Friday nights and is interested in starting another service on Sunday that's aimed at college and high school kids. The Church currently has two services Sunday mornings that bring in about 90 people combined.
    
About three years ago, Sarah Jane secured a $24,000 grant from its church conference to reach out to the community. It bought tools and over the past few summers, volunteers have gone out and given people yard makers. The idea is to help restore the community.

Sarah Jane is also believing its work to impact the community will help it stay open, because an endowment it has been using to operate will be running out in four years. The church says it's filling a need in the community. In addition to the Dream Center and church services, there is a community meal here every Tuesday.

"The community dinner was actually started 27 or 28 years ago by three ladies in the church, who started out making peanut butter sandwiches and soup for dinner and since then, we've held this meal every Tuesday evening," said chairman Jim Lane.

Next, we'll look at First Baptist Church in Johnson City.
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