The Center © 2017

Kelly Corcoran, Rick Abbott and Wayne Downen, all mentored by Harv and Alumni of the CYC, are the current Executive leaders known as The Center.  

The Center

The story of The Center has its roots in the ministry of Harv Russell at the Christian Youth Center (CYC), located in Joliet Illinois.  As Executive Director of the CYC for approximately 50 years, Harv dedicated his life to reaching young people in the Joliet area with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Thousands of lives were transformed as youth attended weekly meetings, summer camps and winter retreats. The youth also served as student leaders, day camp counselors and volunteers in other CYC ministries.

On April 11, 2013, leaders were informed that the Christian Youth Center’s building was being sold and that it was no longer available for their use.  Kelly Corcoran, Rick Abbott and Wayne Downen, all mentored by Harv and alumni of the CYC, became the current Board of Directors (Board).  Lori Ferry, also an alumuns of CYC, joined the Board of Directors later.  Together, a new ministry known as The Center, was formed and incorporated in the state of Illinois as a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation to serve youth in Will County.


The Center has its roots and spirit in the former Christian Youth Center in Joliet, which closed in 2013. Here is a timeline of CYC’s history, according to former Herald-News stories:

•  March 11, 1947 – Moody Bible student Harv Russel hosts the first Hi Crusaders group in Joliet. This was an independent youth program with individual clubs throughout the Chicago area. Twenty-two youth came to the meeting, held in a back room of the old Ridgewood Baptist Church, the corner of Brown and Leech in Joliet.

• 1956 – Now 100 members strong, the Joliet Hi-C hosts a summer teen camp in Shorewood and a basketball team. Meets are held in places such as the Joliet Public Library, upstairs in the old Mode theatre in downtown Joliet and the Salvation Army hall.

• 1957 – When Russell begins overseeing some 60 other Hi Crusaders Clubs in the Chicago area, Chuck Miller, then a Chicago area Hi Crusaders leader and youth director at Faith Bible Church in Joliet, takes Russell’s place. Miller gives rents a storefront on Cass Street, near Joliet Central High School, giving the ministry its first home.

• 1961 – Russell returns after Miller leaves for another position.

• 1961 to 2009 – CYC eventually moves to its permanent home: 20 acres on Manhattan Road in Joliet. Through the year, it offers weekly meetings, retreats, day camps, (where teens served as student leaders); faith-based sports programs and a live school broadcast on WJOL, which lasted over 19 years. By the time CYC celebrated 50 years in 2007, Russell was director emeritus and Rollie Lindstrom was executive director.

• 2009 – CYC, under executive director Brian Allen, changes its ministerial format to one-on-one Christian mentoring

• 2012 – Russell dies.

• 2013 – The Christian Youth Center property is sold. The Center incorporates and begins meeting at Ridgewood Baptist Church. A few months later, The Center moves to The Hub in New Lenox.

• 2017 – The Center begins meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Joliet.