What is the fastest growing sport in the United States?  The answer is pickleball and its popularity is expected to grow even more in the years to come.  In Erie, a group of people has been playing practically every day.  It's more than just a game.  It's a daily fellowship.

Every morning, Monday through Friday, people come to the Church of the Cross on Millfair Road to play pickleball.  Pickleball is a tremendously popular game played with a paddle and a plastic ball. The game combines the elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong.  Don Wolfe made arrangements with the church's leadership in March of 2021 to host the pickleball players. He says organizing the daily pickleball get-together is his ministry.

"We like to uplift people here,” says Don. “We like to make them feel good about themselves.  We also help them with their game.  We also do a lot of coaching.  We always have new people coming in."

This isn't a league. Games are not scheduled.  People who want to play just show up.  Everyone is welcome.  You don't have to belong to the church.  There's no prayer, lectures, or sermons.  Just fellowship.

"Even though this is a ministry, we don't go all Holy Roller on you,” says Don. “We want you to come in, whether or not you're a Christian or any other religion.  Come here, be comfortable, be safe, and if you have questions about our church, we will answer them for you.”

Bob Griffin didn't know much about pickleball before he started coming to the church gym to play.  He's now a regular player and helps explain the game to beginners who show up wanting to learn.

"We have people come in all the time brand new.  I think they are drawn here by the spirit of the people here and they just love it,” says Bob.

Dian Tessauro is 81 years old and has been playing with the group since the beginning.

"I don't think you can find a better group of people anywhere than this group.  Everybody looks out for each other.  Enjoys playing with each other.  We welcome everybody,” she said.  

It looks like pickleball will be around for quite some time.  So, why not pick up a paddle and play? 

"Well, the door's open,” says Bob.  “You'll be received warmly and who knows?  You might make a friend.  You might even learn that pickleball is fun."

The Church of the Cross is located at 5901 Millfair Road on the Millcreek side.  The pickleball games run Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 11:15 a.m.    As many as 15 to 35 people currently show up to play each day on the church's three courts.