By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
LUTZ — The new youth building at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church has been a long time coming. When the church filed paper work with Pasco County more than two years ago, they expected to be in the modular classroom before the next year. Instead, they waited and waited, and waited some more.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony for the building took place at 10 a.m. Feb. 14.
“It’s been a long wait,” said associate pastor Ross Engel. “The teens are really excited to get in the building and actually use it.”
The need for a youth facility arose in March 2006, when the preschool room the youth were meeting in was needed for the little ones. The church decided to build a separate space for its two youth groups, a middle-school-age and a high-school-age group.
“We wanted the youth to feel important within the church,” Engel said. “So often in a church atmosphere, they don’t feel like they have a place away from parents where they can hang out and talk.”
Since the youth no longer had an official meeting place, the new building project took top priority. Holy Trinity hired an architect and began drawing up plans for a modular classroom, what many call a portable. After submitting paper work and plans required by the county, permits were slow to come. When this article went to print, the building committee still had not received its certificate of occupancy but expected to within the week.
“The process was frustrating at times,” said Dan Arnholds of the building committee. “We are also building a new kitchen at the church, so that made the process take longer too, because we needed permits for both. We’re just happy to have the youth building on property now.”
Holy Trinity received funding for the youth building from members of the church, including a large donation by a member who wishes to remain anonymous. A groundbreaking ceremony took place in mid November. Then, construction began.
“At the groundbreaking, we had all the youth members dig up a shovel full of dirt as part of the dedication,” Engel said. “We wanted them to be a part of the process.”
Youth member Lynden Landry, 14, constructed the outside steps and a ramp as part of an Eagle Scout project.
“I had a lot of help from other Scouts and from people in the congregation,” Landry said. “We spent a lot of time and days out in the cold.”
Landry said the effort was worth it. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, he thanked everyone who made the project possible.
“This building is a place where we can learn and grow in our faith,” Landry said. “It’s also a place to get together and have fun.”
Matt Dowler, 18, thinks having a space separate from the younger kids is important.
“It’s a place to gather with friends and be more comfortable,” he said.
Jonathan Arnolds, 16, also can’t wait to use the building.
“I’ve been excited about it for a long time,” he said. “There have been so many bumps in the road, so it’s taken a while, but I’m ready to have a place to call our own. It’s a place where we can grow as a group and create stronger friendships.”
Church members donated furniture and other items for the building, including a big-screen television. Engel is leaving the rest of the decorating up to the youth.
“The youth are going to take a day where they come out, paint, decorate and make the room theirs,” he said.
Engel is putting the frustrations of the building process behind him.
“I was surprised by how difficult it was getting all the permits from Pasco County,” he said, “but having to wait for the building has made everyone appreciate it that much more.”
Holy Trinity youth groups meet during Sunday school hours at the church, 20735 Leonard Road. Middle-school kids also meet on Friday evenings and high-school members on Sunday evenings. There are currently 40 kids involved. For information, call (813) 949-7173.