Goal of Compassion City Center is to provide a place for ‘lives impacted’

Berachah Church celebrates opening of $500K center located on the Johns Road campus.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

MIDDLETOWN — For 43 years, George M. Verity Middle School was a place where classrooms were filled with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students instructed by teachers.

The school on Johns Road closed in 2011, was purchased by Berachah Church 10 years ago, and now church leaders hope a wing of the building can be a place where people and families can experience compassion, be introduced to hope and find peace, said Pastor Lamar Ferrell.

The goal is simple, he said: At least “one life finds hope for their future.”

On Friday morning, Pastor Ferrell, his son, Luke, his mother, Laura Nell Ferrell, and Tina Shell, assistant to the lead pastor, cut the ribbon celebrating the opening of Compassion City Center, a 22,000-square-foot wing of the church.

The ribbon-cutting was attended by more than 50 community leaders, including those from Middletown Municipal Court, the city of Middletown, Middletown police and fire departments and local social service agencies.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Pastor Ferrell said when the church purchased the building, he promised Middletown City School District leaders that it would donate one-third of the school back to the community. He said that was accomplished with the opening of the first phase of the community center that includes conference rooms, meeting spaces, a cafe and a sensory room designed for children and young adults with special needs.

The center will be open throughout the week and be available for free for the community to use, the pastor said.

“It’s a canvas for a story to be written because it’s all about life,” Ferrell said when asked what the Compassion City Center means. “I think what we are going to see is lives impacted. You can’t put a value on life, so I would say if one life finds hope for their future, it’s successful.”

He envisions a time when all the rooms are filled with residents seeking financial, spiritual or mental guidance. He expects Berachah to work with community partners to provide some of those much-needed services.

Ferrell hopes those who walk into the center experience “compassion, love and mercy. This is a place filled with hope, life and laughter.”

He called it “a modern day well” where residents can gather in one place for a multitude of resources.

“The sky truly is the limit,” he said.

Executive Pastor Jim Tinch Jr. said the church spent abut $500,000 remodeling the wing into Compassion City Center. The total price was about $750,000, but some of that was for parking lot and roof upgrades that also benefit the church, he said.

One large room is called Tanner’s Tree House, designed for children and young adults with special needs. There are several cabins where children can quietly sit and play educational games.

The sensory playground is named in honor of Tanner Davis, a Berachah member who is legally blind. Some of the funding for the cabins came from a $5,000 donation from Andy Busler and others were proceeds from the church’s Master’s Mission golf outing.

Tanner’s father, Herb Davis, said he “felt peace” while standing in Tanner’s Tree House. He hopes it’s a “safe place” for children with special needs and their families.

Shell said Tanner greets church members every Sunday morning, and while he can’t see them, once he hears their voice, he asks about them and their family.

She called Tanner “a huge piece of our church.”

State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., who attended the ribbon-cutting, said he has been a Berachah member for years. He called the Compassion City Center “a huge blessing” for the Middletown community.

“This world is a broken place,” he said. “There needs to be a place like this.”

The first time Ferrell stepped on the Verity Middle School property, he envisioned the back wing that faces South Breiel Boulevard to be filled with life.

“The dream is realized,” he said.

In 2014, Berachah purchased the former Verity property at a public auction for $293,000, or 40% of its appraised value of $740,000.

It has taken 10 years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and countless donated hours from church members.

“The journey has made the appreciation level grander,” Ferrell said. “Now that we have the place and the space, we want to see faces.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

About the Author