by CAMBRIA ROTH
Each Friday around 6 p.m. you will see children running around the Evelyn Mount Elementary School playground in Reno. Volunteers play tag with them, push them on the swing sets, and often just sit and talk about how the children’s week was.
Pathfinders Children’s Ministry is an organization that brings children from motels, government subsidized housing, foster care and general poverty together for one night each week. They lead the children in fellowship, feed them a meal and build personal relationships with them.
The organization began in 2001 with two men named Gene and Charlie who had successfully completed the drug rehabilitation program of the then Center Street Mission in Reno. Both men were committed to improving the lives of children who they had encountered during addiction that were living in old roach infested motels and little apartments. They reached out to the about 20 kids and took them to a safe and clean location once a week in two old vans that barely ran.
Today, this organization reaches anywhere from 140 to 180 children on Friday nights, and uses nine vans to pick up the kids — many volunteers pick up kids and bring them on their own.
“We have three ultimate goals to Pathfinders,” said Chuck Grimm, executive director of the ministry. “First, the religious aspect of leading them to a relationship with God, but also, we want to teach them that even though they are where they are because of bad choices made by others, their lives don’t have to the same and they can make different, better choices.”
He said the third aspect is to teach them that they must stay in school and education is important.
“That is the key to getting out of where they are,” Grimm said. “Without an education, they don’t have much hope.”
Currently, 19 different churches partner with the ministry to reach these children of Reno and Sparks. The organization continues to expand after hiring Grimm as the ministry’s first paid employee. In early July, Multnomah University provided Pathfinders with an office in their building. The ministry is even looking to acquire its own building to reach more kids to offer additional meeting times, and a place of refuge for kids to go to.