ELWOOD, Ind. — August 19 marks one year since Elwood pastor Ben Capshaw died in a car accident on State Road 37. He left behind a wife and two sons.
Ben and his wife, Amanda, had long held a vision to open a youth center in the community they served. That vision is now fulfilled in Ben's memory. Students in grades six through 12 have a new, safe place to hang out after school in Elwood called the Catalyst Youth Center.
"Not a lot of positive influences going on, so I feel like with a place like this, that can really benefit my community and like my peers,” said Jasmine Tevalan, an Elwood High School freshman who comes to the youth center.
The Catalyst Youth Center opened in July in a former dentist office at 213 N. 16th Street. The center offers mentoring, tutoring and after school programs.
"We have to show them that they can come and show up at a place and not be judged,” said Amanda Capshaw, Catalyst Youth Center's executive director. “It doesn't matter what they look like, doesn't matter what their behavior was at school. It doesn't matter what decisions they've made that maybe aren't the best decisions. We know that God loves them and so we're going to love them through it as well."
Capshaw and her husband, Pastor Ben Capshaw, had a vision to open a youth center for almost 20 years, dating back to their days together at Indiana Wesleyan University. Amanda had just quit her job at school last year to focus on getting the center started when Ben died in a car accident.
The community has come alongside to support the family and fulfill the couple’s vision. Amanda formed a board. Catalyst Youth Center became a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Programming in January, with a mentoring program meeting at local churches.
"It gave me something to do in my grief,” Amanda said. “It gave me something to put my energy towards, something that we had a vision for, and just a way that I could keep his legacy alive."
A local company bought the building and is selling it on contract interest free to Catalyst. Office and classroom space are already in use. Phase two involves converting about half the building, which was divided into individual exam rooms, into one large recreation area. Amanda hopes that is complete before the weather turns cold.
For now, the garage and parking lot provide activity space for the after-school Snack Attack program. Students receive a light snack and are offered a variety of activities from 3 – 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students can ride a bus straight from Elwood Schools to the center. They must sign in and out when they attend.
Tutoring is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 – 7:30 p.m.
The mentoring program takes about 10 boys and 10 girls selected through the school system through a 9- to 18-week course teaching positive values. Some of these include identity, goal setting, making good choices, among others. After the course, students will stay connected and help to lead the next group of students.
Tevalan was part of the first mentoring class.
“I knew of this idea that they had and the fact that it sprung up so fast, just after we tragically lost (Ben) is just so beautiful,” Tevalan said.
Amanda's last night with Ben before he died included a two-hour prayer meeting about starting the Catalyst Youth Center.
"The only way that I've been able to press on is that we have this vision together and that we can continue to move forward beside Christ," Amanda said.
Friday night's season opening football game at Elwood High School is dedicated to Pastor Ben Capshaw and Elwood Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz, who was killed in the line of duty last month. There will be banners, t-shirts, and pregame ceremonies to remember the two community servants.