A Frederica pastor is working on a plan to build a community center in the Kent County town.

Pastor Rocco "Rocky" Shanks is trying to get the word out, particularly when it comes to the safety of children in his community.

With record numbers of broken homes and children lacking parental guidance, he thinks it's too easy for today's youngsters to give in to the temptations of crime and other illicit or immoral behavior.

That's a thought shared by many, and Shanks is trying to do something about it.

"The future of our nation is in our youth and our youth don't have much of a chance anymore." he said. "The future of our churches is dependent on our youth, and our churches are broken.

"I get in trouble for saying these things, but it's the truth."

Shanks, 61, is pastor of the Freedom Baptist Church in Frederica. He built the church on South Market Street two years ago after moving his congregation from its former site on Route 13.

And while that was a major undertaking, he's gearing up for another: construction of a community center for the children of Frederica.

"It will be a safe haven, a drug-free, bully-free place for children to come to and just be kids," he said.

Preliminary plans for the 17,000-square-foot center include a college-sized gymnasium with indoor track, space for indoor tennis and indoor volleyball, a game room for ping pong and billiards, a 150-seat theater, a handball and racquetball court and even an indoor archery range.

"That's one of today's fastest growing sports," Shanks noted.

A staff of 10 will maintain the building, supervise the children and prepare food in a commercial-sized kitchen, Shanks said.

There also will be "massive" security, he said, including cameras and windows in every room to ensure the safety of those using the center. The building will include a small apartment upstairs for the center's director, ensuring he or she is on hand 24 hours a day.

"We'll do anything we can to protect our children," Shanks said.

A project this size requires money – approximately $2.2 million. That's a massive figure, but Shanks thinks it can be met.

Shanks has incorporated the community center and, with help from his congregation, taken out a mortgage for the land in the community center's name.

The community center has applied for 501c(3) non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service, which then will allow the corporation to apply for a number of grants.

It's a long and involved process, complicated by the fact the community center, after waiting several months for a decision, had to resubmit its paperwork because of a clerical error.

But once the tax-free status is approved, Shanks sees a navigable road ahead.

"There are literally hundreds of thousands of dollars out there for projects for children," he said.

Even while awaiting a verdict from the IRS, the community center still must go about raising funds to pay the mortgage and provide preliminary designs and architectural drawings. Shanks has had very positive feedback from a number of people who want to help, including a professional wrestler and boxer and a mixed martial arts group, all of who have offered to put on shows and demonstrations to raise money.

If the community center can raise $100,000 with participation of these groups, it'll be "a good jump start," Shanks said.

Once the funding is secure, ground can be broken for the center, which will take about six months to complete.

So far, Shanks said, reaction to his ideas has mostly been positive, although there are some who object to the idea of a community center or who simply don't like his conservative religious beliefs.

But these objections aren't of much concern.

"Our children need help and if we can give that, that's good," he said. "I have no doubt in my mind that this is going to happen. As far as the timing goes, I don't know.

"But it will happen."