I stopped in at the Cove a few weeks ago with my new boss Sharla, the head of Down the Road Tours, for whom I will be doing tour guide work this summer. I’ve often taken our “adopted” Amish son “Junior” and his friends there for Saturday night volleyball and socializing—but I’ve always wanted to get in there when it was empty so I could take some pictures, and this was my chance!
The manager of the Cove, an Amishman named Harley Yoder, was there to show us around and answer our questions. I also owe a thank-you to the November 2019 issue of “The Connection,” a newsletter which had a feature article on the Cove.
The official name of the facility is “The Cove Plain Community Youth Center.” It is one of a number of such places found in Amish Indiana and southern Michigan (what we here call “Michiana”). It was built in 2015 on four-acre plot and was funded by donations. Since then, it has been self-supporting.
Recently, ten more acres were purchased and two beautiful softball diamonds were added to the campus.
What is the purpose of the Cove? According to Mr. Yoder, there are around 3,000 “youngie” (young folks in their teen years) in the Shipshewana area. The Amish community wanted to provide a place for youth activities, socializing, and special events.
Entering the front portion (above), there is a dining area with tables and booths. Off to one side are restrooms, and nearby is a food concession area. To the left of this area, the rest of the front portion is a large room for relaxing and socializing, with a fireplace, couches, tables, and game tables. This front portion of the building is 60 by 80 feet.
Proceeding through to the larger back area of the building, there is a beautiful gymnasium, normally set up for volleyball but also equipped for basketball and other sports. The gym area is 100 by 110 feet with a 29-foot ceiling. The whiteboard below gives an idea of how many activities are going on at any given time, including volleyball, softball, basketball, chess, cornhole, and rook. Saturdays are tournament days, and Saturday night is open gym night.
The youth center operates under a 7-man board and is staffed with volunteers—2 or 3 couples per evening—who prepare and sell food. Mr. Yoder says he is very thankful for the 200+ families who volunteer there!