Dora Youth Connect opens as gathering place for high schoolers

The interior of the Dora Youth Connect building has been remodeled as a comfortable gathering place for high school students, offering “short-order”-style food, games and activities. Photo submitted

The old Cropper store on County Road 379 in the heart of Dora was purchased by Family Life Church several years ago. To get it ready for the new Youth Connect program, the building was rehabilitated, and a new front porch was added.

These couples from Family Life Church in Dora have reopened a youth center, Dora Youth Connect, in the old Cropper store. For 16 years, David and Jenny Jessee operated DYNO, another church-affiliated youth program there. But after David Jessee suffered a disabling stroke, that program had to be discontinued. From left: Pastor Don Hamby and wife Carolyn, Gale and Dan Hurd, Rob and Maggie Tomlinson (holding 7-month-old daughter Eliyanah), and Gwen and Calvin Chambers. Not pictured: Sherry and Monty Pennell.

A popular gathering place for Dora-area teenagers has reopened under a new name but with the same enthusiastic church support and in the same age-old Dora building, now spruced up for its rebirth. 

Dora Youth Connect, a project sponsored by the Family Life Church in Dora, will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday nights, welcoming high school students – freshmen through seniors only, at least for now – in the former Cropper general store on County Road 379, a short distance north of Dora School. 

Five couples from Family Life Church have undertaken the project and will be working together to support the program, supervise the teenagers and make the Dora Youth Connect a success: Pastor Don Hamby and wife Carolyn, Gale and Dan Hurd, Maggie and Rob Tomlinson, Calvin and Gwen Chambers, and Sherry and Monty Pennell. 

 Gale Hurd said Dora Youth Connect is a direct descendant of DYNO, an earlier church-sponsored youth center in the building that was wildly popular for 16 years. Short for Dynamic Young Non-Conformist Organization (or, later, for Dora Youth Night Out), DYNO operated on Friday nights under the supervision of Sycamore residents David and Jenny Jessee, “who would probably still be doing it if David hadn’t had a stroke six years ago,” Gale said. 

The Jessees’ vision, which the current group of organizers share, was that “we needed a place for teenagers to come where they would be supervised, and it would be a safe place with good activities,” she said.

The Jesses’ program, described in a 2008 Ozark County Times story, attracted as many as 50 to 70 youth at a time, including seventh- and eighth-graders. Dora Youth Connect is only open to high school students now, but that may change in the future, Gale said.

The building has been rehabilitated and remodeled, with a front porch added. The large, open room has been outfitted with pingpong, pool and bumper-pool tables, plus two foosball tables and a long “gangster pool” table, Gale said. Board games and comfortable seating abound.  Outside, teenagers may opt for volleyball or basketball.

“We’ll be feeding the kids. We’ll have food prepared on site. And in addition to the food we serve free of charge, the kids can also buy pop, ice cream, hamburgers and fries - short-order kinds of things. We’ll have ice cream and other treats,” she said last week, adding that they “haven’t worked out the pricing or decided what we’ll charge for and what we won’t charge for. We’re still working out the details.” 

Area residents got their first look at the new facility during a community fish fry and open house Saturday night, Dec. 6. Youth Connect’s first Friday night gathering for high schoolers was Dec. 13. For more information, contact Dan and Gal Hurd at 417-712-1843.


Ozark County Times

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