In 2010, Kathy Fenstamaker did something her 14-year-old son Lee thought was really cool: she dropped him off, by himself, at a hardcore concert in a basement in the city.
Unbeknownst to him, however, Kathy had really just parked around the corner and came in through the back door. He wasn't getting off that easy. She wanted to know what her son was getting into.
When she walked in, she panicked because everyone was thrashing about and the music was so loud and abrasive that it was painful.
RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
"I thought something was wrong," she said. "And I couldn't find Lee anywhere."
Once she found him, he, of course, wasn't happy mom had tagged along.
"He said, 'Mom, why are you here?' and I said, 'I want to know what you're doing, what this is all about,' " Kathy said.
So, she stayed and even though it wasn't her type of music, she learned something from the experience and kept coming back show after show.
"It's just the kids expressing themselves," she said. "They're trying to get through their teen years and this is helping. And they're really wonderful kids once you get to know them."
Kathy recognized the kids' love for hardcore music as an opportunity to help them, bring them together and keep them off the streets more. She started to get involved with the venue, The Ground Floor at Citychurch, 36 E. Fourth St., and worked with the kids in the church's youth group who were organizing the shows.
"The youth group ran The Ground Floor," she said. "And they did a nice job. But it was too much responsibility for the kids ... so Larry [Stout, Elder and Pastor of the church] approached me and asked me if I'd do this. So now ... I'm the Ground Floor Coordinator."
At that time, the venue already had a good reputation and things have only gone up from there.
"I have promoters contacting me with tour packages now," she said. "There are a lot of people interested in playing here. We have bands come from all over - Good Luck Varsity comes from Michigan to play here and they don't even ask for enough money to pay for gas. They said they just love playing here."
With the growing interest, Kathy and her husband, Richard, started thinking about building a new, bigger stage for the venue about six months ago.
"My husband researched and researched and built mock stages," she said. "He brought them in and tested them for height and weight. He's an engineer. It took him two months to build the stage. He did it for the kids."
With the new stage in the freshly painted, banquet hall-sized room (still in the same church), The Ground Floor can now hold 550 people instead of 250 like the old room.
"I think it's going to be so great," she said. "We would like to do some different things. To do some stuff for adults - maybe a comedy night or a jazz night. We would love to do that."
The new stage debuted March 9, with a concert that featured local favorite My Heart to Fear, as well as Us From Outside, From Atlantis, Good Luck Varsity, A Faylene Sky, A Feast for Kings and The Teeth.
The old room will now be used as a catch-all, supervised hangout for teens featuring a ping pong table, a pool table, video games and, of course, the old stage, which may be used for impromtu performances.
Kathy has seven teens who volunteer regularly to help organize concerts, including 16-year-old Williamsport resident Elizabeth Moore, who helps out with selling food, watching the green room and supervising, and loves The Ground Floor.
"It's a safe place for kids to come so they're not out getting into trouble," Moore said. "It's pretty much what got me saved. I never liked going to church until The Ground Floor happened. I can't imagine my life without The Ground Floor."
Nineteen-year-old Williamsport resident Donald Kaler, another volunteer, said that The Ground Floor "is a great place to meet new friends."
"My favorite part is not only that it's great for the city in general, it helps out with the community," he said. "It gets people to start coming to the place and saying there's something to do in Williamsport."
Kathy said that the success of the venue couldn't have happened without the kids.
"The kids are by my side always," she said. "They never give me a hard time."
For more information about The Ground Floor, visit Facebook and search for "Ground Floor" or call 419-3169. The next concert is planned for some time in April, but specific details have not been announced.