*A lawyer calls; his yard man has gotten old and sick, and can no longer carry out mowing and yard work at his office. He knows the easy way is to just call a commercial mowing company, but he’s read about the work-over-welfare summer programs at Challenge Houses, and calls, “wondering if any of the teens might like work?” In no time we have found a young boy who likes to work and earn, and we connect the two!! A few weeks later I check up, and sure enough they made a deal, and the lawyer just beamed as he shared what a wonderful job the young man did! So much of what we do is to “connect;” and along with that we share “opportunity.”
*The folks who reside in the inner-city Challenge Houses are known as Neighborhood Ambassadors; they offer full time hospitality, and do their best to know as many people as possible: their neighbors! Not long ago a boy knocked on the door late (Challenge House #3), and our man went to the door. The boy had had a severe disagreement with his brother, and was afraid to go back home. He needed transportation to a friend’s house for the night, while things cooled off. Done Deal! This boy knew Challenge House as a safe place to turn with his problem. He made a smart decision, and CH3 was a part of it.
*Drugs and domestic violence and two precious little girls don’t go together; we all know that. The mother lost the girls, but before they left the state, the girls often were at Challenge House #2, and described our presence “as helping our mother become a Christian.” Both girls were involved with Fourth Dimension, a teen group that comes to Challenge House monthly and shares love toward many children. Guess what? The Challenge House Ambassador recently “found” the mom on Facebook, and discovered that she is in long-term rehab, and has a job. What progress! Our Ambassador plans to travel to a distant city to visit with her —and who knows —maybe one day this woman and her daughters will be reunited—so often in Challenge House neighborhoods we lose track of folks, but sooner or later they usually turn up again!
*In 2004, while living in a tough neighborhood called “DA,” a young man, age 26, flagged me down saying, “I heard you moved here to help. I want to go to college.” I asked him to breakfast, taking him to a Human Relations event, where he sat right across the table from the bank president. The two ended up talking a mile-a-minute, and when the event ended, the bank president stood, shook hands with the inner-city resident, and said, “If you follow your dream and go to college, I want to buy your books.” And, he did! He did not finish, but I’d not be surprised if some day he doesn’t, and I bet the book offer is still on the table! A few weeks ago, while showing Challenge House #5 to a local HR executive, I feel a tap on the shoulder from behind. I look around and this same young man, now age 35, smiling ear-to-ear, says, “My nephew lives in this neighborhood, and I want to get him involved with this Challenge House! What goes around comes around, and it’s so neat when what is going around is good. Patience is the name of the game in our work; relationship-building is not instant, but done right it’s permanent, and yields harvest, even years later.
*It all begins with relationship. Challenge House #1 Ambassadors get to know this high school student; he’s struggling with grades and they tutor him, they help him prepare to take his driver’s license examine, and he passes! Then, they work with him to win a job at a new prestigious restaurant, and he’s already been promoted! He gives some of the earnings to his mom. These same Ambassadors sit around their outdoor fire pit, welcoming their neighbors to S’mores!
*A little girl from a troubled family just “adopts” one of our Ambassadors (CH#4); recently this little girl, always in the office at school for “trouble,” was brought into a meeting by her principal, bragging on her that “she had not been to the office for 2 weeks!” She saw our Ambassador and just ran into her arms. We are involved in the schools from time to time, and so want to be more involved. Neighborhood reinforcement is essential to good school behavior.
We received a $5,000 grant from AT&T, and paid out more than that amount. To whom did we pay it? 100% to the teenagers who completed the program we named “Attitude Training & Teamwork” for AT&T. The first 16 hours (over 4 days) is called “Boot Camp.” Those who make it through Boot Camp then job shadow for another 16 hours in the area of their primary interest: those who want to be chefs, work at restaurants, those who want to become nurses, work at our hospital, those who want to be mechanics, work at mechanic shops or auto dealerships, those that want to be lawyers work at the courthouse, those who want to become salesman work in sales—you get the picture. They each wrote “thank you” notes to AT&T, after earning $150 each! Most purchased school clothes with their earnings. Here is what some wrote to AT&T:
1–“Thank you. I have learned so much from this program and how much school is important to get further in your career, and that with the help of God, God’s people, and supporters I can overcome life’s obstacles.” —Shadowed a police officer.
2–“Thank you. You have opened my eyes to seek out a great career, and a brighter future”. —Shadowed at Sisk Auto Mall.
3–“Thank you for giving the ones that have nothing to do for the summer something to do, and also a chance to learn
about things they don’t already know. I really appreciate the opportunity to experience an actual job with my future workmates or bosses. It really helped me a lot.” —Shadowed at Kentucky New Era (local newspaper).
4–“Thank you for this program and the money. Now I know how to set goals and have a good career.” —Shadowed Police Officer.
5–“Thank you for changing my life. I now know how to overcome obstacles. I have more sensibility than before.” —Shadowed at local Arts Center.
The first program graduated 18 out of 19; the second program this summer graduated 16 out of 24. This is tough love, and we so hope those not making it learn from their mistakes, and try again next summer.
*I am in a Challenge House neighborhood showing the same HR executive Challenge House #2; I see a young man, 11th grade, who had graduated the AT&T program–he was riding his bicycle. I called him over, and asked him to tell the lady what he learned this summer: “I worked at Pennyrile Machine Shop and I earned $150,” he beamed! I ask him this question: Everything below the neck is what? He answered just like we taught him: “minimum wage!” We so try to teach these students the value of serious study! I asked him what he wants to be someday. He told the lady, “I want to be an underwater welder.” How about that~
Child Evangelism Fellowship carried out something like Vacation Bible School this summer, teaching at each of 3 Challenge Houses daily, Monday – Friday: 15 total sessions! Amazing how the little children listened and learned, and gave serious attention to the stories of: love, overcoming, and commitment! Smiles and prayers~
Thanks for reading this long report. This is “We” work, and in one way or another YOU are on this team.
Wally Bryan 270-889-3395
Challenge House PO Box 462 Hopkinsville, KY 42241