Youth-Reach Gulf Coast: Helping young men work toward a brighter future

Melanie LeCroy
Lifestyle Editor
melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 7/27/22

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On an 81-acre farm in Summerdale, Youth-Reach Gulf Coast works to help young men find their way in the world.The Youth-Reach organization was started in 1984 in Houston, Texas by Mobile …

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Youth-Reach Gulf Coast: Helping young men work toward a brighter future

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On an 81-acre farm in Summerdale, Youth-Reach Gulf Coast works to help young men find their way in the world.

The Youth-Reach organization was started in 1984 in Houston, Texas by Mobile native Curt Williams. In 2008, Williams founded Youth-Reach Gulf Coast. Today, Youth-Reach Houston focuses on helping young men ages 12-17 while Youth-Reach Gulf Coast focuses on young men ages 18-22.

“The goal of Youth-Reach Gulf Coast is to be a safe place where guys can come to find out who they are away from the outside influences, substance abuse and all the pull of the world,” said Operations Coordinator Jackson Bentley. “We don’t focus on behavior modifications. We are after heart change.”

Young men that express a desire to change find their way to the Summerdale campus through church networks, word-of-mouth and Google searches.

“Across the board, most of the guys come from broken homes and have been through some terrible stuff,” Bentley said. “We help them identify their struggles, the trauma they have been through in their life and the family history that causes them to feel broken and abandoned. Through relationships with the staff, they can trust and open up. They work through all these things that are holding them back so it does not follow them into their future.”

The staff live on property and everyone works together to take care of the 81-acre farm. The property has cows and chickens, a garden, wood shop, weight room and homes for staff and residents. The young men learn to cook, clean, care for the animals and maintain the property. A transition home is in the final stages of construction. The facility currently can house 14 young men but will have space for 26 once the transition home is complete.

Youth-Reach Gulf Coast asks for a year commitment from residents and it is completely free to the residents and their families. Once they arrive, the young men go through a phased program where they learn the chores and settle into the community, receive guidance counseling and begin to dig into their history and identify their struggles. Staff help them work through the emotional healing of the past and plan for their future.

“We want guys to come here, find out what their purpose is in life, how they are wired and what their strengths are,” Bentley said. “As their self-esteem grows and they learn their identity in Jesus we want to point them in the right direction for what they are made for.”

Once they finish their year commitment some residents choose to enter the military. One recently left to enter the Air Force and another is currently in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training. Others go back to college and a few are currently in transition working full time and taking college classes while continuing to live at Youth-Reach Gulf Coast.

“Every guy has a different background and we don’t have a cookie cutter picture of what we want a guy to look like. We just want him to be who he is created to be,” Bentley said. “We see that by creating these relationships with them they see a different way of life they want to envision for their future. We just try to model what a man of God looks like and help them see it for themselves.”

Youth-Reach is entirely funded by individuals, organizations, churches and the community. Bentley said they have a faith-based approach to funding where they see the Lord provide through different connections and generous people and organizations like the Mystical Order of Aurora.

For the fourth year, Youth-Reach Gulf Coast will be the beneficiary of the Mystical Order of Aurora’s Swanky Gala, Aug. 12, at The Wharf. Last year the Swanky Gala raised over $68,000 for Youth-Reach Gulf Coast.

“Our Aurora organization is amazed at the generosity of our Gulf Coast neighbors each year when we host this fundraiser for Youth-Reach Gulf Coast,” said Nancy McMeekin, publicity chair for the Mystical Order of Aurora. “For us, it is a labor of love to organize an event for an organization here in our backyard that changes the lives of young men, offers them a way to find their purpose and gives families a chance for healing and love. We deeply appreciate those who provide auction items and who purchase tickets; all proceeds go to this worthwhile cause.”

“We are deeply moved by the generosity of our community through their support of the Auroras’ Swanky Gala. Our mission to help build strong men of God is made possible by such caring individuals, organizations and companies. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we are impacting our community through the young men who receive biblical counseling and support for developing character, responsibility and a strong work ethic on our 81-acre campus in Summerdale, Alabama,” Bentley said.

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