Step Back in Time features news items from The Daily Star 25 and 50 years ago.
25 years ago
Oct. 19, 1988
NORWICH — A Norwich church will get a national award Sunday for not shutting its door on the kids who used to hang out across the street.
The First Baptist Church on West Park Place didn’t ignore the kids who hung out and got in trouble in West and East Side parks in the city. Instead, five years ago, the church started The Place, a drop-in center for youth.
For that, Guidepost Magazine, a national church-related publication, chose the First Baptist Church from among about 1,000 nominees to get the 1988 Guidepost Church Award. The award, which comes with $5,000, is given annually to a church or synagogue for an innovative program to meet a community need. The magazine will present it at the church at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Place came to the magazine’s attention after two church members, Judy Jones and Virginia Reid, wrote letters of nomination in 1985. The center, once located at the church, is now in a house behind the post office. It is independent from the church, though it gets money from the First Baptist as well as other churches, United Way and the state Division for Youth.
When the Rev. Merrit Marsango came to Norwich to take the job at The Place, he didn’t think a small city in the middle of a rural county could have the problems he’d seen in big cities and suburbia. Now he knows he was wrong.
Marsango said The Place deals with teen pregnancy, suicide, runaways and family problems every day.
“We’re working with kids not too many want to work with, but when you spend time with them, you find they’re not so bad. They’re kind of wounded,” Marsango said.