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Surrounded by some of the many children they mentor, Vince Gaddis and Homero Perez are working together once again at Youth Believing in Change, 22 years after they met one summer when Homero was Vince's mentor.

Two men bond over their concern for Dallas children, and meet again 22 years later

Homero Perez was a staff member in 1995 for an AmeriCorps program sponsored by the Greater Dallas Community of Churches in Dallas. He was charged with the task of interviewing, hiring and training five leaders to serve in five areas of Dallas densely populated by children in poverty.

One applicant stood out. “Of all the individuals we interviewed, we knew that God was doing something unique in Vince's life. His passion, his eagerness to serve and his transparency overwhelmed us,” Perez says.

After much prayer and due diligence Vince was unanimously voted upon to work out in the field. Perez remembers, “Given the challenges of the poorest children in the inner city, Vince was best suited for the challenge.”

Perez says, “Training Vince was both a joy and a challenge. We traveled together, debated with one another and grew to respect and complement one another for the common good of children and families in the Vickery Meadows neighborhood.” Vince created a literacy program that reinforced young children’s academic lessons from school, while providing a spiritual bent. “The children needed more than tutoring,” Vince explains, “They needed someone to believe in them, and something to believe in.”

But the two came at life from different perspectives. Vince says, “At AmeriCorps Mr. Perez was my boss – and we used to argue all the time. Mr. Perez is very logical. I’m very innovative and creative. We’d go to lunch and have these loud conversations about how to do ministry. But we’d always come back around and remained friends.”

Both men enjoyed working together, but upon their completion of their commitment of service with AmeriCorps, the two-lost contact.

Perez went on to work with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS.)

He was responsible for monitoring non-profits across the U. S.  He would often think of the great leaders he met while working with AmeriCorp. “Remembering how promising they all were, I often wondered how and what they were doing.” Perez says.

Two decades went by and in August of 2016 Perez decided to get back into the community service arena.  “I wanted something new, challenging and rewarding. Oddly, during one of my searches on USAJOBS.gov, I switched to a website called, Idealist.org. Interestingly, on the second posting was a listing for a teacher in a program called, Youth Believing in Change, (YBC.)”

Stunned, Perez thought, “No way! This can't be the program Vince Gaddis started.”

He immediately sent an e-mail to the contact to inquire if indeed it was the program Vince started in Vickery Meadows in 1995. At 1:12 a.m. Vince responded asking, “Who is this?”

Perez sent his name and Vince immediately replied, “You must call me when you can, this is Vince Gaddis who worked under your leadership in AmeriCorp."  

Perez followed up the next day. “I called Vince and he invited me to come see YBC. I was so pleased to learn that this program was still vibrant.”

A week later, he drove through the entrance gates of YBC all the while thinking it was probably located in the back of the church or maybe in an office area with a small room like it was when it started.

“As I toured the facility with Vince and saw all that YBC was doing, it became real clear to me why God led me to the Idealist.org website. Vince has always been an Idealist. What God is doing through him and the YBC staff IS Ideal. Especially given the many needs of children today.”

The two men talked for hours, and Perez volunteered for a week.

As the second week began Vince told Perez, "You are the exact person needed to help take YBC et to the next level. Please consider helping us.”

After going home to discuss and pray with his family about it, he realized that serving at YBC would fulfill his desire to do something new, challenging and rewarding. He lives just a few miles away in Garland from the Stults Road location in Lake Highlands. “I accepted the opportunity. Now I am reporting to the very leader I led!” Perez adds: “That's so rewarding!”

His job as Operations Manger is to run the day-to-day operations: organize, recruit and galvanize staff and volunteers to keep the program running smoothly. This frees up Vince so that he can promote the vision of YBC and raise funds from private sources and foundations to help the program be a strong example to the community. The two plan to make it replicable. “A ministry as dynamic and effective as YBC is needed in every community,” Perez says. "We need to grow new leaders for our city and country's future."

With over 250 children from age three to 13 currently registered--coming from nine different public schools--and 300 children attending summer camp, Vincent estimates he has helped over 6,000 students get through elementary and middle school.

A few dozen he’s even found college scholarships for. Some of those university graduates he’s hoping will return to visit, and maybe attend the ministry’s Annual Evening of Change on May 4, a celebration of the students’ success, replete with a performance by the Youth Choir led by Vince’s wife, Angela. New Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson is the special speaker for the evening. She and Vince have known each other for decades.

Twenty-two years after two young men worked to help the children in the inner city of Dallas, the two now-mature men are back together, better than ever, believing positive change for the good is possible--through prayer and work—in the youth they mentor.

 

Youth Believing in Change (YBC) is a 501©3 non-profit after school program located on Stults Road in Lake Highlands and is free for children ages 3 to 17. Volunteers are always welcome. Private funds support the program, and donations are always welcome. Students from nine schools in DISD and the Richardson School District  are served. For more information, see the website: www.ybcdallas.org or for a tour, contact the office at 214-692-9242 or e-mail program director Angela Gaddis at angela@ybcdallas.org

YBC has an annual dinner, An Evening of Change, May 4, 2017 from 6:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. at Highland Park Presbyterian Church (Elliott Hall) — 3821 University Boulevard, Dallas, 75205. This year's keynote speaker is the new Dallas District Attorney, Faith Johnson. The public is invited to attend. For tickets or more information call 214-692-9242.

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