They came for a tour … and left quite a gift behind.
Several representatives of the DW61 Foundation – named in memory and honor of the late Dennis Wallace, a Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy lost in the line of duty – stopped by the Escalon Youth Center on Friday evening, Feb. 28.
Serving as tour guide was center director Todd O’Neill, who offered some insight as to how the Youth Center operates and how it came into being, as a project spearheaded by Trinity Church and the late Jim Davis, who served as pastor at Trinity for several years.
They purchased the old Escalon Motel and razed most of the site, leaving only the manager’s apartment standing. The rest was rebuilt into the Escalon Youth Center, which has been open for about three years.
“The whole congregation unanimously agreed to turn it into a Youth Center,” O’Neill said of the project getting the support from the start. He said they were also told it would be “a money pit” but it wasn’t meant to be a money-making venture; it was meant to help meet the needs of providing a place for kids in the community to go.
There are video games, a pool table, ping pong, a computer/study area, books, board games and more. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“It has been a blessing,” O’Neill said. “We have life classes every couple of months, we had one on changing tires, we have had an interview skills class, cooking class.”
He also said there are ground rules for the kids to follow, they can work at chores and help out at the center to earn money with which to buy their lunch there and the center also does a number of special events for local youths. They also have the kids get involved in community service projects.
“Our policy is if you want to eat here, you’ve got to work for it,” O’Neill said.
Several volunteers help staff the Youth Center throughout the week, interacting with the kids and in many cases, serving as mentors.
“My brother loved kids,” said Dave Wallace, one of the Foundation members on hand for the presentation. “He worked in youth programs, he and I refereed high school football games.”
When they heard about the Escalon Youth Center, they knew they wanted to help. Last year, the DW61 Foundation provided some funding to help send a number of kids to summer camp. This year, with proceeds from a very successful golf tournament benefitting numerous youth programs around the region, they had some left over and Wallace said there wasn’t any doubt about what they wanted to do with it.
The organization presented the Escalon Youth Center with a $5,000 donation. Along with Dave Wallace, the Foundation members taking the tour and presenting the check included Kim Wallace, Mercedes Wallace, Debbie Murken, Amber Cromwell and Andrea Jones.
“In Dennis’s memory, our tournament has been well received and it has allowed us to turn it around and give it back,” Wallace said. “This is a great place for us to donate to, somewhere for the kids to come. You want what’s best for kids in your town.”