The Gate Youth Association is a 501(c)(3), non-profit corporation whose mission is to demonstrate Christ’s love to the youth of our community through academic, social, recreational, and spiritual activities.


Our vision is a community where future generations experience, follow, and serve Christ. Considering that Tuesday Church Lunch has been in existence for 30 years and our afterschool programming has been in place for 15 years, we are currently seeing our vision come alive. We see past Gate students already reaching various stages of adulthood from high school graduate to midlife and many are living proof of our mission statement. We see our past students serving as influential men and women of faith and goodwill in our community, our nation and our world. They are now helping others around them be known, encouraged and encounter Christ’s unconditional love.

Frequently Asked Questions

We try to anticipate questions you might have about our programs and provide the answers here. If you need additional information, please feel free to contact us.
  1. What is The Gate Youth Association?

The Gate is a network of people committed to creating a place for young people in this community. The Gate Youth Association is a 501(c)(3), non-profit corporation whose mission is to demonstrate Christ’s love to the youth of our community through academic, social, and spiritual activities. Our hope is to bring youth into a relationship with Christians who can share their faith. Our vision is a community where future generations experience, follow, and serve Christ.

  1. What is The Gate Community Youth Center?

A safe place to be known as individuals, to be encouraged to grow and learn, and to encounter Christ’s love.

  1. What ministries does The Gate offer?

We are open Monday through Friday from 3:15 – 6:00pm daily for recreational programming. 6th graders are welcome on Mondays and Tuesdays. 7th through 12th graders are welcome every day of the week.

Our extended programming includes evenings on Monday from 6-7pm for 6th through 12th graders and Wednesday from 6-8pm for high school students. 

 We offer gym access, gaming of all kinds, crafting and cooking opportunities plus snacks. Staff interacts with the students as they socialize, seek advice, play games, get help with homework, use available computers, and hear a short inspirational talk.

Middle school youth group is from 6:00-7:30 on Tuesday.

High school youth group is from 6:00-8:00.

All activities are free!

  1. What is Tuesday Lunch

Every Tuesday during the school year, community volunteers prepare a lunch of “teen comfort food” for 150 high school students and staff. Students walk across the street from Central High School, eat together, and hear a short inspirational talk. The program, now in its 31st year, is funded through donations and a small fee charged to participants. The program is on “pause” until face to face classes resume.

  1. Who can use the facility?

The Gate Community Youth Center was built to serve youth. Activities at the Gate are sponsored both by The Gate Youth Association and its community partners who serve youth.  

  1. How do I stay informed about The Gate?

You can always talk with one of our board members who would love to talk about The Gate. We also publish a quarterly newsletter that we would be happy to mail to you. Just Contact Us. Also follow us on FB, Instagram and Twitter.


Ben Bobeda
Executive Director

The Gate provides a place for youth to be safe and have fun while connecting with adult mentors who can encourage them and guide them in their journey through life. Serving at The Gate is the most meaningful thing I do outside of my own family.


Ben was born and raised in Polk County where he has gotten to know both Monmouth and Independence well over the years.He has been involved in youth ministry in various capacities as well as managing a small local business throughout his working career.He has volunteered weekly at The Gate since its inception, coordinated the building of the youth center and now serves as the Executive Director.

Geanell McDonald
Program Director

“I believe The Gate is where students can come to not only hang out and build new friendships, but to also feel loved and encouraged, and be mentored by those in the community who really care about them.”


Geanell was born and raised in Hawaii on the island of Maui. She moved to Oregon in 2013 to pursue an education in teaching at Western Oregon University located in Monmouth. After college, Geanell began her teaching career. She has worked for Central SD, Salem-Keizer SD, and McMinnville SD. She greatly enjoyed her time working as an elementary school teacher. In addition to teaching, she also became a respite care provider for children in foster care. These experiences inspired her passion for mentoring and walking alongside children who have a need for encouragement and guidance. Her new drive led her to have the opportunity to work at The Gate. She is excited to be on board with the staff and volunteers to help the children in our community.

Board Members

Chris Robertson

“Fifteen years of working in youth ministry has given me a deep passion to see youth develop healthy relationships. The Gate is exactly what Polk County needs to give all youth a positive place to grow up.”


Chris grew up in Independence and Dallas, Oregon and has worked as a youth pastor, concrete finisher and small business owner. He is now lead pastor at Way of Life Fellowship in Salem. He served as the youth pastor at Independence First Baptist Church where he built the vision for The Gate. He is passionate about collaborating and championing the mission of The Gate.

Mike Ainsworth

“I am invested whole heartedly in this community, I always want to be the lead cheerleader. Kids have purpose. I want to help them find it and pursue it.”
Mike Ainsworth grew up in Polk County and graduated from Central High School in 1973.  He married his wife DeAnn in 1975 at the First Baptist Church in Independence where they raised their family just outside of town.  After spending 20 years working for Willamette Industries and Weyerhaeuser, he served the last 10 years as a Polk County Commissioner.   Mike has spent the last 28 years announcing games for the CHS football team and is very involved with the Panther Booster Club. Recently retired, Mike can often be found mowing the lawns at The Gate or cleaning the floors inside.

Shiela Duluk
Vice President

“Youth are the future of our community. They carry many of the responsibilities that adults do in our culture, and deserve a safe place where they can come and just be kids again. I am excited to see The Gate be that place, filled with laughter, joy and smiles, but also a place where youth can feel encouraged, and safe enough to share their burdens with caring, supportive, loving adults, and know that they are not alone.”


Shiela grew up in Southern California and has been working with kids and youth since she was in highschool. She has worked as an AVID Tutor, YMCA childcare site director, administrative assistant for various organizations, and is currently the office administrator at First Baptist Church, Independence . She has also volunteered as a crisis counselor for community agencies in Southern California, and most recently is serving as a local PTA President, and on several community committees with Central School District. She is excited to be part of collaborative team at The Gate as they work to develop the programs that will have the most impact and opportunities for all youth in our community.

Dustin Cotton
Board Member

Coming Soon


Pastor Mike Parks
Board Member

“My hope is to have a safe place like The Gate for youth to enjoy enriching activities, hear the good news of Christ, and grow in maturity and wholeness with Him.”

Mike and his wife have lived in the Monmouth/Independence area since 1999 and raised three children who each graduated from Central High School.He has been in fulltime ministry for over 25 years serving as a Youth Pastor, Education Director and is currently the lead Pastor at First Baptist of Independence.He can be seen most Thursday’s at The Gate, has spoken at Tuesday Lunch and volunteers with AWANA clubs.

Tim Barry
Board Member

“I’m excited to be a part of the Gate. Over the years, I have watched the impact the Gate has made on many lives and I believe the best is yet to come.More than ever, kids need to feel accepted, encouraged and mentored through Christ’s love.More than anything, kids need Jesus!”


Tim grew up in Southern & Central California and eventually was called to serve full time as a Program director and eventually an Executive Branch Managers for the YMCA movement at YMCA’s in California, Idaho and Oregon for twenty years.Eventually Tim was called to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to manage the Youth Education Department where he directs several staff that impact many native students with their academics, enrichment and helping prepare for their next steps after High School.

Kari Meyer
Board Member

“The Gate gives hope to our community and adds necessary light in this dark time”


Kari is a lifelong part of this community and has spent most of that time in the Independence First Baptist church and in the Central school district. Through the years, her role has shifted from student, to educator, to parent (and educator). She has been excited about The Gate since the initial dream was shared, and joyfully serves on the board to connect to the schools and students of our community.

Abby Fitts
Board Member

“The Gate offers kids, no matter who they are or where they are from, a place to land, to be safe, to ask questions, to make friendships, and to learn about the love of Christ. I’m so glad I get to be a part of that!”


Abby grew up overseas and served in the US Navy before making Independence her home in 2008. She runs a solo law practice and serves as a children’s rights policy advocate at the University of Colorado’s Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect. She serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in Polk County, and she and her husband Joe have 3 children.