The Rev. Les Pedersen of the Spring of Life Community Church in Pahoa showed blueprints Thursday of the planned octagonal building that will serve as a church and gymnasium.

Church’s new facility to
benefit Big Isle community

Pahoa youths will get a needed recreation venue at the site

By Rod Thompson

PAHOA, Hawaii >> The Spring of Life Community Church plans to build a combined church and gymnasium in the shape of an octagon in Pahoa, south of Hilo.

Combined with baseball and soccer fields on 12.9 acres facing Pahoa Bypass Road, the project is estimated to cost $1.5 million. The Atherton Family Foundation recently gave $20,000 toward the project, joined by the Cooke Foundation with $30,000.

The project is called the Punawai Ola Center. Spring of Life officials do not even call the building a church, but rather a "multipurpose facility."

The Rev. Les Pedersen said the denomination, an offshoot of the Missionary Church, believes they should serve people's practical needs first.

"The Puna District (surrounding Pahoa) is perceived by many in the state as a severely depressed socioeconomic area, a haven for drug abuse and crime and poor student achievement," says a church statement.

A 1999 Spring of Life community survey found the area's biggest need was jobs, something beyond the church's ability to supply. But they could serve the next biggest need, youth recreation.

People told church volunteers, "There's nothing for kids to do," Pedersen said. And, he noted, "There are a lot of unattended kids in the area."

"Basically, the kids just need structure," said church volunteer youth director Nathan Yamada. "When they get an adult who gives attention to them, they thrive on that."

The concept that evolved was a 44-foot-high octagonal building, 117 feet in diameter. The interior is so huge that there is space in the center for a basketball court, with offices, meeting rooms and bathrooms arranged around it.

Chairs can be set up for public meetings or church services.

The Atherton and Cooke grants will be used next month to begin work creating playing fields, parking and restrooms.

Pedersen said he is seeking more money for the main building and is optimistic enough to predict that construction will start sometime next year.

E-mail to City Desk


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