Ministry to young adults, children hopeful of clearance to do even more

Dec. 09, 2013 @ 08:47 PM

A Henderson ministry making strides in 2013 is looking forward to a big step forward in January, if the nod comes from city leaders and there’s support from donors.

Advantage Ministries Inc., a non-profit outreach that has a shelter and family-based intervention, is opening up a food bank this month. In January, the city zoning board will have a chance to green-light an at-risk youth center and after-school program on Satterwhite Point Road.

According to ministry leader Janice Ward, somebody needs to do something about unfed and untrained children outside the institution of school, young unskilled mothers not paying attention to them and young men growing up on the streets and getting into trouble.

Advantage has been growing from baby steps in 2008. It has a shelter for homeless young parents with children working on finding permanent places to stay.

There is outreach to connect young parents, usually mothers, to training and job prospects. The food bank is another component in meeting other young-family needs.

Advantage received approval for operating their food bank, and arrangements are being organized for opening at 103 Wortham Court.

Ward said she is working on it as the next task along with keeping donations and donated items flowing for the ongoing shelter and outreach work.

“We’re going to try to have it open by the middle of the month, before Christmas,” Ward said.

The youth center would be a major added component in what Ward called a holistic approach to supporting young families into a turnaround to the right direction.

“Most of the kids I see in at-risk or near-risk situations are really smart kids,” Ward said. “Their intelligence is very high. They are just in a circumstance at home, their environment situation. Usually their mothers are very young. Somebody’s got to do something.”

She says that a lot, to whoever she meets to talk about doing something.

“I know I can’t reach out and save all of Vance County, but if I can help just 20, I feel like I would have fulfilled my purpose,” Ward said.

Alfreda Thomas, a volunteer at Advantage with a background in mental health, said her enthusiasm for the ministry is complete because of the vision to intervene for the whole person and whole families.

“Services start with the head of the home, usually a single mother,” Thomas said. “We try to link them with job services, counseling and educational opportunities. We try to stop the trickle-down effect of this going from generation to generation.”

The center would operate at 261 Satterwhite Point Road, and would operate as a youth center and after-school program under the name Kid Advantage Academy. Thomas said up to 50 children from pre-kindergarten through third grade would be served there at varying points of time.

“The parents will be required to volunteer too,” she said. “That gets them involved.”

“They need to learn, this is real life,” Ward added. “This is what is real. It’s all right to be you, but you have to know. You have to be responsible. Children need to be reached at an early age.”

Ward’s husband, Victor Ward, is supportive of the mission. He is also a volunteer, with his sleeves rolled up and ready to work.

“I am able to talk to the boys as a man,” he said. “They have their excuses, their hardships, and they need to know that it’s just weak. It’s a copout. We try to teach them they can do better. Anyone can get in trouble, but you don’t have to keep doing the same thing. You can break that cycle.”

He added that it takes real people leveling with them first, earning their trust.

“It’s not something where you just come at them and preach at them,” he said.

Janice Ward said listening to students talking about some of the troubles at school is a frightful eye opener, including stories of reasons why some children are afraid to go to their school’s bathroom.

“You have to teach the streets,” she said. “These children have to be around it, and they may walk into a situation where everybody is doing stuff. We need to make them aware, to expect it, and what they have to do to get away from it.”

So some help with schoolwork and basic skills that may include street smarts as well gets many other conversations started. Helping the family situation includes food needs and housing opportunities — sometimes even temporary shelter.

When the care is real, the opening of doors leads to open hearts as well.

“I can start with my story, my mistakes,” Victor Ward said. “I try to talk with them as young men, let them know they don’t have to be like that.”

Victor Ward’s story steps up from being a youth in trouble, and includes a 35-year professional career, working 25 years with the Murdoch Developmental Center in Butner for persons with intellectual disabilities. While a careerist, he also served 22 years with the National Guard.

He achieved some goals, he gained and saved so things he wanted came his way. Reaching those goals came through education and earning his way.

“These kids might see a drug dealer ride by. Maybe he has a nice car with the spinner wheels, and they want that,” he said. “But isn’t it nice not to have the worry of someone breaking down your door, having to always look over your shoulder.”

According to the Wards, living a real life is the real advantage they hope to share with more young families going forward into the new year.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.