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Graffiti adorns the side of the new drop-in centre for youth on Garnet Street. (Youtube/www.oasisregina.com)

An abandoned church that sat empty for nearly 20 years is undergoing renovations that will turn it into a safe haven for children in northcentral Regina.

Volunteers are carrying out work at a steady pace on St. Peter's Anglican church, which is now known as The Oasis.

The exterior of the old church at the corner of Garnet Street and 7th Avenue has already undergone a facelift to reflect its new urban aesthetics.

A U.S. group called Gospel Graffiti and others have painted a number of murals and spray-painted the drop-in centre's name on one wall.

A skateboard ramp is near completion and organizers have plans to build a recording studio inside.

Jordan d'Almeida is heading up the effort. He said getting started was the hardest part.

"We had eight or nine of those big red Loraas bins hauled out of there with just junk that was left over. There was a dead cat in the building. It was a big mess. Initially I was super excited, but then you kind of get your nose to the grindstone and you just go day by day and try to get towards the vision," he said.

D'Almeida said he was inspired to launch the project early in his days as a new resident.

Providing basic foundations of a family

"The day I moved into the neighbourhood, there were six kids from the neighbourhood that just showed up out of the woodwork. That's how this whole thing started. They just helped me move in my stuff. My wife and I just figured that the main way that people grow and develop is if they find the basic foundations that you find in a family. So we just figured that we should provide that for these kids," he said.

Chris Nerney, 14, is one of the volunteers who has donated his time to the project on the corner of his block.   "I think it'll be really important because it's a safe place for kids to go. And they can be who they want to be, and do it all in a safe place," he said.

It's estimated the renovation will cost nearly $1.5 million, even with volunteers providing the labour.

Children from the neighbourhood are being encouraged to come help and participate in activities at the centre.

When the sanctuary is complete it will be a place for round-the-clock non-denominational worship.

There are plans for the church to host its first wedding on Sept. 4.