March 23, 2001 11:00 pm

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Scores of youths are going underground here.

More than 100 middle school and high school students and a dozen churches from Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine and Wallowa are working to develop the new Underground Student Ministry Center at 200 E. Main St.

The Underground is in the spacious 4,500-square-foot basement of the former Ratcliff/M.J. Interiors furniture store, now the Enterprise Flower Shop. The center is on the corner of S.E. First Street, across from the courthouse.

For future growth, an additional 1,500 square feet is available.

Last summer, Enterprise Christian Church youth minister Aaron Sackett shared an idea with Enterprise Baptist Church youth pastor Jeff Gaertner.

The two began working on a plan to involve other churches and communities to establish a youth center outside of any particular church building.

In January, a separate stairway was built to a rear door, a stage was constructed for bands, and texturing and painting was done to brighten the area.

The junior high RUSH youth group now meets there 7 p.m. Mondays; the high school youth group, Asylum, meets there on Wednesdays. Asylum means a refuge from our crazy world, Gaertner said.

RUSH used to meet in a church, and Asylum met in a different home each month.

Now youth and their parents will know for sure where it is, Gaertner said.

The Underground is intended to provide a drug- and alcohol-free place for wholesome youth activities on weekends, and after ball games.

By next school year, the Underground will offer after-school programs for fourth- through sixth-grade students. There they will be able to do homework, receive tutoring or just hang out in a safe environment and participate in healthy activities with adult supervision.

The Bread of Life Fellowship and others have donated furniture, and there is one refrigerator for refreshments. Foosball, pool and ping-pong tables are in the plans.

Audio and video equipment are also needed for concerts, conducting meetings and showing films of youth retreats, like the recent Anthony Lakes ski trip.

The plans are to purchase a video projection unit and a CD/DVD player with a surround-sound system to show movies. The center has a sound board, but needs additional sound equipment, such as microphones and monitor speakers for bands.

Additional computers are also needed for a resource room.

The Underground will also serve as a staging area for other community service projects ranging from helping build a sand volleyball court at the Enterprise City Park to raking leaves in the fall.