At Ickey’s

Fort Dodge youths will soon have a new place to spend time with friends in a safe environment when a new youth center opens next month.

Ickey’s, a coffeeshop-style youth center, started as a vision of St. Olaf Lutheran Church several years ago, the congregation’s pastor, the Rev. Dave Grindberg, said.

“We’d thought about it on and off for about seven years,” Grindberg said. “Then, about three years ago we started a process where we were looking at what our next steps were going to be. We knew we needed a safe place for our youths to be able to gather.”

After about six months of studying the idea, Grindberg said, it was decided to invite other local churches to be part of the mission.

“We knew there was a need, but the only way this was going to succeed was if we made it ecumenical,” he said. “We went to congregations to ask them for partnerships and now we have been planning since September for a grand opening.”

Other churches involved in the project are First Presbyterian, First United Methodist, St. Mark’s Episcopal, New Covenant Christian and First Covenant churches, as well as First Congregational United Church of Christ.

Ickey’s, located at125 N. 27th St. in the former Design Two and Maxine’s Coffee Shop, featured the Christian band The Madison Letter in a sort of “mini concert” Friday night. The Madison Letter will perform in a freewill donation concert tonight in the Fort Dodge Middle School auditorium.

Ickey’s official grand opening is Feb. 2 , when it will host a youth party on Super Bowl Sunday.

Its founders plan for Ickey’s to be open after school; extended hours into the evening are yet to be determined.

Grindberg said there is a story behind the unusual name, Ickey’s.

“It comes from Ichthys, which means fish, like the Jesus fish symbol,” Grindberg said. “It’s the symbol early Christians used to greet each other.”

The center will be filled with comfortable furniture and televisions, and there will be Wi-Fi throughout the building. Participating congregations will be able to reserve and use some of the center’s rooms.

“We will have video games and TVs,” he said. “The TVs will allow kids who are working on group projects or homework to get together and hook a computer up and have their work projected on a screen to collaborative things. Each room will have at least one TV.”

Grindberg hopes Ickey’s will be a way for middle school and senior high school students to connect and be introduced to faith in an alternative environment.

“It’s a new doorway for youths to enter a world of religious faith,” he said. “Not all people feel comfortable entering a church; this will just be a comfortable safe place for them to enter.”

He said the youth center will not be exclusive to any one of the congregations involved.

“We’ll be open to the public,” he said. “We’re not here to promote; we will leave our church identities at the door. We are here because we know there are youths who need to hear a message. We want them to find a place they can call home, a place to have fun and be safe.”