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Youth group gains momentum as it branches out in Hillyard

Sometimes there really is a check in the mail, and sometimes it’s a big one. When Spokane Youth for Christ began looking at expanding its mission from West Central to Hillyard, finding funding and a new building was a top priority.

That’s when an anonymous private donor gave the center $50,000 – with some strings attached.

“The donor said if we could raise another $50,000 on our own, he’d match it with $50,000 more,” said Tom Davis, the group’s executive director. “So if we can raise $50,000 we’ll have a total of $150,000 – I hope that’s clear as mud.”

The group already operates a youth center on North Ash Street where Davis said more than 500 youths spent some time last year.

“Our goal is to work with kids living in Spokane’s lowest income neighborhoods: West Central, East Central and Hillyard, and now Hillyard’s is about to happen,” Davis said.

The Hillyard building is on the corner of Market Street and Hoffman Avenue, one block south of Wellesley Avenue, and it was donated to the group. It needs some remodeling and some maintenance, but Davis said it’s the perfect location.

“We just started knocking down some walls, that’s all we’ve done so far,” Davis said. “We hope to be done with phase one and two of the project by end of fall. That means we can have kids there. And then completely finish the building with the completion of phase three by summer.”

Another fundraiser was put on by Papa John’s Pizza, and $9,823 was raised, which was donated on Aug. 8. A different donor will match the Papa John’s donation, and anything that’s been added to it, by Oct. 1.

The new center in Hillyard will offer the same services as the one in West Central, including homework help and tutoring, game nights and free meal programs once there’s an approved kitchen in the building.

“YFC is a niche ministry, and our goal is to reach the kids no one else is reaching,” said Davis. He explained that research shows Hillyard is at the center of one of the state’s poorest ZIP codes and that an estimated 470 youths will end up involved in the criminal justice system.

“We are a Christian organization. We never back away from that,” Davis said. “And we give the kids a message of hope that’s more than just wanting them to stay in school and go to college. You’ll never see a kid with hope in a gang.”

In West Central, Davis said a lot of the center’s youths come from broken homes, and there is what he calls “a serious lack of fathers.”

Davis added there are many great programs and resources for at-risk youth in Spokane.

“What’s lacking is relationship – we are that link between the resources that are already here and the kids,” said Davis.

Like the West Central center, the Hillyard center will be open five days a week after school, and it will host speakers and presenters who can help youth with job skills training such as résumé writing.

To complete the Hillyard center, Spokane Youth for Christ is asking for cash donations, in-kind construction labor donations and for volunteer staff to be ready when the center opens. It is also looking to connect with other Hillyard organizations.

“I think we are a good partner organization; we don’t feel like we can do it all alone,” Davis said.

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