06/27/12 — Mission for youths: TRANZ Center looking for new home

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Mission for youths: TRANZ Center looking for new home

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 27, 2012 1:46 PM

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TRANZ Center founder and program director Timothy Whitfield holds photographs of what the building looked like before he and Refuge Temple Church transformed it into a non-profit community center in January.

A "haven for kids" near downtown Goldsboro is in need of a new home.

At month's end, the TRANZ Center, located on Carolina Street at the base of the hill behind Franklin Baking Co., will be displaced.

"The people that own the building have a moving company and are getting ready to do some construction and will use this building for offices and bathrooms," said Timothy Whitfield, director of the center, which he opened in January.

He christened the building, which also housed Refuge Temple Church, as TRANZ -- short for transformation -- an acronym for the characteristics he hopes to impart among the youths: trust, respect, attitude, acknowledge and zeal.

Whitfield has been working with young people since 1998, when he started volunteering at Goldsboro High School and became a behavior specialist under former administrator Gerald Whitley's tutelage.

"Mr. Whitley told me that he put me in the classes that no substitute teachers wanted to take," Whitfield said.

It would be where he "found my niche," he says now.

"I wanted to transform lives," he said. "That's been my aim, to help change lives."

In a segment of the community where the No. 1 complaint among youths is "there's nothing to do, I'm bored," Whitfield said he sought a way to help.

"That's why our young men are in gangs. They want some kind of association," he said. "That's my passion, to help them find themselves, to help them be profitable."

TRANZ Center was born out of that need.

"I saw where the traditional churches had a midweek service and a Sunday service. I decided to step out of the box because I feel that the church is supposed to be available all the time for people. So I decided to stop having church on Sundays and open this facility five days a week."

"I felt that I could serve more people by being open five days a week than I could on just Wednesday night and Sunday."

His efforts devoted to "100 percent outreach" meant opening the doors of the center to provide a place for children to get off the streets.

The center features arcade games and pool tables as well as a TV and books.

It's not a glorified baby sitting service, though, Whitfield said.

"We also have some senior citizens who come in and play dominoes," he said.

The important thing, he said, is that it meets a need in an area of town where youths have been underserved.

Many of them don't have transportation and aren't within walking distance of places frequented by their peers.

"Kids can't get to the Boys and Girls Club, can't get to the Y and they can't get to W.A. Foster, the recreational centers. ... I did my observations and at least a half-mile radius, there are so many churches, but there's nothing for the community to do, so that's why I decided to meet the need of the community through outreach," he said.

A pastor at heart, Whitfield has done whatever it takes to keep the center afloat.

"I preach on the streets. I do cookouts. I have started a kids' choir through this," he said. "My outreach is at any cost, win the lost."

When the center first opened, he sought support from parents of the youths attending -- asking for a dollar a month, but that didn't last.

One of the first and most prevalent needs he sees among the young people, he noted, is hunger.

"We have fed the kids on numerous occasions, every time we have a function," he said.

Other churches, including Word Warehouse and The Bridge, have backed the mission, Whitfield said. Goldsboro Worship Center even donated a bus.

"But as far as major funding, I have supported it out of my own pocket," he said. "I have managed up to this point. My phone has been cut off, but I have managed to keep the phone on, keep the lights and water, but it's been a struggle to pay the rent."

When June 30 rolls around, he plans to do what he has always done -- "mobilize the kids" -- only this time it will take on a literal meaning.

"I'll take the chairs out of my van and use these tables and some folding chairs, get me a couple tents and take the kids to a couple parks," he said. "I'm officially closing it down until we can get in the next building."

Whitfield said he has his sights set on another location, only a few blocks away, on John Street. Price tag for the site is $175,000, he said.

In the meantime, he might not have a building but he still has his congregation.

"It ain't about standing up with a robe on and having a choir singing some songs," he said. "I'm reaching more unchurched people than when I was having church. ...

"I know I can't help everybody, but that's why this place is so important in this community."

For more information on supporting the TRANZ Center, call 919-396-8855 or send an email to tranzcenter79@gmail.com.