Bob Slater and Joe Thomasberger

Posted on Posted in interviews

Reverend Joe Thomasberger came to Orange in the 1960s to serve as the minister for North Orange Baptist Church, formerly located at the corner of Main and Hickory Streets. Joe’s memories of Orange in the 1960s and 70s are colored specifically by his great admiration of Bob Slater, who ran the “street ministry” of the Orange YMCA. Slater’s job was to reach out to underserved populations in the city to offer counseling and support. With Joe’s support, Slater established the “Outpost” program in 1968 at North Orange Baptist Church to provide African American youths a safe place to go after school to hang out.

The Outpost filled a vital need since the construction of I-280 caused the closing and removal of both the “Colored” YMCA and YWCA, on Oakwood Avenue, as well as the Friendship House, on Parrow Street, that had each offered after school programming for African American kids.

Kids in the Outpost program used North Orange Baptist Church to play basketball, for homework support, and even sensitivity groups, where kids could talk about what was bothering them or just what was on their minds. Many people asked Slater why he invested so much in African American kids, an effort that they thought was a lost cause. His response was that “misfits and malcontents are the hope of the world!”

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