House of Prayer to turn old Baptist gym into community center

by Charles Gerian

Blackwell’s House of Prayer is giving new life to an old gymnasium that many Blackwell citizens young and old will likely remember.

Pastor John Jack with the House of Prayer had told his wife Nellie that the lord told him to buy the First Baptist Church’s gymnasium on 1st and Bridge, and Nellie said that the two of them have Heaven-high hopes for the building’s future, hoping to capture the same magic that made it such a hot-spot in the past.

The gym had not been used in any major capacity since roughly 2015, and the remnants of the building’s past life can be seen all throughout the complex.

Walking into the east-side doors, stairs to the left lead up to the gym, while the left leads downstairs to a basement which runs the entire length and width of the building, full of class rooms that still have supplies and art projects pinned to cork boards.

Upstairs, the court floor of the gym contains hundreds of roller skates which have all been cleaned and restored, a fact that Nellie was very proud of.

“We have been cleaning these skates and doing inventory, and we plan to offer people the chance to skate here again,” she said.

It isn’t hard to close your eyes for a brief second and imagine those lace-up skates gliding beneath dresses and old letterman jackets from the 1960’s.

Looking down on the gym is a wrap-around track that Nellie plans to open up for people to jog or walk around.

The gym, in the 2000’s, was used for tween “hangouts” and “lock-ins” which were large sleepovers hosted by the church and other community organizations.

“We want to open it up for kids in the community, so that they can come in and roller skate, play basketball, host teen and women retreats, just whatever the Lord puts in our lap to do here- he gave it to us, and we’re going to honor that,” said Nellie.

She certainly isn’t lacking for room. Walking down in the basement, Nellie noted that while there was minor restoration work to be done and ADA-accessible ramps to be installed, the building was structurally good as new.

Nellie showed off the class rooms, retsrooms, and break rooms, talking excitedly about all the possibilities that the facility will offer her and the House of Prayer.