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By STEVEN MURREY
ELWOOD — Approximately 60 individuals attended a Winter Wonderland Gala to help fundraise the Catalyst Youth Center Saturday evening at East Main Street Christian Church.
The Catalyst Youth Center, a faith-based youth driven and community-minded organization, was born from the imaginations of the late Ben Capshaw and his wife, Amanda.
In 2002, the Capshaws had a vision to start a youth center to provide a safe place for students to go, learn, and grow with the support of caring adults. Ben and Amanda chased this vision, first by working in schools, leading camps for at-risk youth, and caring for and teaching special needs students. After the couple re-settled in their hometown of Elwood, they sought to grow their vision into a physical location that could help the youth of Elwood.
On July 19 of 2021, Amanda left her job at the school and she and Ben felt compelled to move forward. Ben prayed for a “catalyst for change” in the community, and both knew the youth center’s name was the Catalyst Youth Center.
On Aug. 19, Ben Capshaw was tragically killed in an automobile accident. Though Amanda and her family were devastated, Amanda knew that God had called on her to continue their quest to provide the youth a safe place to go.
“With him being gone, it was scary,” Amanda said in a pre-recorded video showed to the attendees of the gala. “But I knew that God had called me to continue the mission we had for the youth center. He wouldn’t have wanted it any differently, he wouldn’t be happy with me if we stopped. He cared too much about the kids in the community, and his legacy will live on with the youth center.”
Amanda said tragedy could not stop what God had planned for the community. Though the center has yet to finalize plans for a permanent building, volunteers have already started a mentorship program and afterschool tutoring. Currently, the programs are meeting at East Main Street Christian Church and Central Wesleyan.
There are presently six members on the board of directors for the youth center. Members include EJSHS principal Troy Friedersdorf, Sondra Tarter, Pastor Roger Gardner, Alex Mireles, Kira Wilkinson and Pastor Matthew Siebel.
Guests of the gala were treated to a chicken dinner, given the chance to take photos in front of a picturesque winter backdrop, and were entertained by a surprise performance from the Show Choir under direction of Paula Simmons.
Pastor Matthew Siebel spoke to guests about the youth center’s current goals. Pastor Roger Gardner provided the opening prayer. Amanda Capshaw shared her and Ben’s vision and was welcomed to the stage by a standing ovation. In addition to the surprise performance from the choir, Mayor Todd Jones also spoke.
“As Mayor, it is always exciting to see new things happening in the City of Elwood,” Jones said. “To be able to witness what was once just a dream of our dear friends Pastor Ben and Amanda come to life has been nothing short of amazing.”
“I was really impressed and excited,” said Amanda Sunday of the gala. “We brought in a good amount of donations and they’re still coming in.”
“We are still in search of a building,” she said, though they have located one they are interested in.
Tutoring began the week after Thanksgiving, and mentoring began in January. Currently the center has nine boys and eight girls, and the goal is to grow with more volunteers.
“We are hoping to start our after-school program a few days a week,” she continued. Until a permanent building is located, there are tentative plans to utilize the East Main Street Christian Church.
Amanda said currently they are focusing on kids grades 7-12, since the YMCA offers afterschool programs for younger children already. Future plans include hosting classes, such as karate and sewing.
For those wishing to help the Center grow, there are several options. Donations can be sent directly to Amanda at The Catalyst Youth Center,
101 N 23rd Street, Elwood, IN 46036. People can also donate at thecatalystyouthcenter.com/donate
Amanda says that once a building is secured, she will need volunteers to help paint. She is also accepting drink donations for the current tutoring and mentorship programs.
Amanda said the inaugural gala was by invitation only, but future galas will be open to all with an entrance fee.
“It’s really neat to see how much the kids have grown in just four weeks,” Amanda said of the mentoring program. The members worked the gala serving drinks. “Any time you can connect kids with another adult who wants to see them succeed, it is beneficial.”
Amanda Capshaw has a bachelors in Elementary Education and Christian Education from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Masters in Special Education from Liberty University. She enjoys spending time with her two sons, Isaac and Noah. She loves being active in the community and is a member of Central Wesleyan Church. Additionally she has directed and acted with the Duck Creek Players theatre group and works as a substitute teacher in the Elwood School Corporation.
To learn more about the Catalyst Youth Center, visit the website or follow along on Facebook @TheCatalystYouthCenter.