My name is Ken Baker. My wife, Sally, and I are the founders of Soaring Above Ionia Teen Center, located on West Main Street, Downtown Ionia. We are looking for Partners to help us create and sustain a wholesome place for teens to hangout, get off the streets, and be safe in a drug-free environment.
How the Center came to be, and why it is important . . .
In 1966, I was born to an unwed, sixteen-year-old mother. Drugs, drinking alcohol and men were more important to her than my sister and I. The first 13 years of my life were plagued with physical, mental and sexual abuse. I ran away from home, only to be taken in by a pedophile. I had to escape again.
I spent the next two years living on the streets of downtown Detroit. I studied Taekwondo and Jiujitsu, and from there I joined a gang. I became a thug and an enforcer for the gang. Eventually, I became a debt collector for a dealer and then a drug dealer myself.
In 1986, my daughter was born and I was arrested for possession of drugs. I was convicted and sentenced to a 20-year prison term. By the grace of God, I walked out of prison nine months later and never went back.
During the next seven years I learned to read and write; got my GED, and an Associate Degree from Schoolcraft College. Again, only by the grace of God, was I able to enroll in a special program at the University of Michigan. I paid full tuition and did all the work that led to a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering.
The year my daughter turned sixteen, Sally and I were married. During the same time, our daughter was fighting an intense battle with depression.
During the next 10 years I worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena, Michigan, where I developed programs to help troubled and at-risk youth. I worked with the sheriff’s department, State Police, the local police, and juvenile court system to help young people with drug related issues.
In 2012, Sally and I moved to Ionia to be closer to our daughter, her husband and our grandchildren. That year our daughter lost her life to depression. Again, by God’s grace, we are on the strong side of recovery from the death of our daughter.
A year ago, we started a mentoring group at our church for young people. We began with one young man who could not make eye contact, or remain in the same room with strangers for very long. He is now a leader to his peers, and publicly speaking to other youth groups.
Subjects of discussion for this peer-mentoring program include depression, cutting, self-worth, and bullying. Bible verses are included because it is a faith-based program. We have teens overcoming specific problems, and they mentor and support their peers with similar issues.
Soaring Above Ionia Teen Center is a place for teens to hang out. Now, in Phase One, youth can have fun playing pool, air hockey, darts, foosball, board games and crafts.
Our goal for Phase Two is to offer two meals a day in the summer, lunch and dinner. One meal will be offered when kids are back in school in the fall.
Phase Three goals include homework support; GED training; help securing employment through job application assistance; involvement with the juvenile court system; and other probation programs.
Phase Four goals include renovating apartments for teens that are aging out of the foster care system. To live in an apartment, they need to have a job and be enrolled/attending college. They will pay rent based on a small portion of their income.
Our mission is to reach every teen in need of help; leave no kid behind; provide teens with a safe place to just be kids; share God’s love; build self-confidence; and show them there are adults that care about them.
Check our website or Facebook for current hours. The center will also be available for groups to rent.
Thank you for allowing us to introduce ourselves, and Soaring Above Ionia Teen Center. If you have any questions, would like to tour our facility, or would like to become a partner please contact us.
Ken and Sally Baker
Soaring Above Ionia Teen Center
410 West Main Street, Ionia MI 48846
Call or text 989-255-1341
Center # 616-523-4570