Social Eyes by Faye Reeder

Urban at-risk youths benefit from mentoring and intervention programs

Youths and their mentors at Fortress YDC.
Youths and their mentors at Fortress YDC. Courtesy photo

Chances are good that not many people have heard of Fortress Youth Development Center in southeast Fort Worth. The small nonprofit was established in 2005 as an outgrowth of a church program that served homeless and impoverished families.

The founders of Fortress YDC realized that the urban population needed more than food and clothing — it needed a nurturing place for neighborhood children that gives them more resources to break the cycle of poverty and carve out a better future.

With support from local churches, the Fort Worth Junior League and local businesses, Fortress students are experiencing more and more success. Area business owner Sam Petty said his company, Venture Mechanical, is proud to support Fortress.

“My business partner and I have become engaged in the work they do with at-risk youth near downtown. Though they are right in the heart of Fort Worth, few of the city’s residents have ever heard of them,” Petty said.

“Through their preschool, mentoring, parent engagement, summer and after-school programs, they work closely with kids in near southeast Fort Worth to ignite powerful change in their lives and in the lives of the kiddos they’ll one day have,” Petty added.

With National Mentoring Month coming up in January, Fortress YDC staff members are eager to attract more volunteers to their already strong mentoring program.

“Of all the things we do for the kids at Fortress, I think mentoring is perhaps the most effective,” said Fortress spokeswoman Stacy Agee. “Even though the outcomes are difficult to measure in terms of hard data, I know without a doubt that the relationships between our kids and their mentors are where the magic happens.”

Dani Kocur, the program coordinator at Fortress, said mentors can choose any weekday Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. to work with students. New mentors are asked to commit to two semesters.

“Mentoring has the power to change how a child sees his own potential,” Kocur said. “Through this program, many of our kids have adopted dreams of becoming like their mentors — that is, going to college, having a good career, being an engaged parent and pursuing an authentic, lived-out faith. They are actively emulating these adults because of the consistency and positive example they provide through mentoring.”

An 11-year-old Fortress student named Lonnie had this to say about the mentoring program: “I think it’s important for kids to have a mentor, especially boys. Some boys don’t have dads, so if they have a mentor, it can kind of be like they have a dad.” Or this comment about her mentor came from 10-year-old Morgan: “She’s really nice and really smart. She does really good in her classes at college, and she helps me with my homework. I want to be like her when I grow up.” A Fortress 8-year-old said: “He comes every Wednesday. That’s my favorite day, when he comes here.”

Anyone interested in getting involved in the mentoring program at Fortress can reach Kocur at 817-335-1007 or danikocur@fortressydc.org. Learn more about the work of this nonprofit at www.FortressYDC.org.

Festivus in Fairmount is Dec. 12

Sit back and relax on Dec. 12 while someone else does the driving to see the beautiful holiday lights on the charming bungalow homes in the Fairmount neighborhood of Fort Worth. Charter buses will pick up guests for the tour at Kent & Co. The Space, at 1309 S. Adams St. The event runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“It’s the holiday season again and the Fairmount Historic District is gearing up for its third year to host Festivus, a holiday light tour of beautifully decorated historic houses in the neighborhood,” said event coordinator Brandon Garrett.

As the oohs and aahs are heard while viewing the spectacular light displays on each home, guests will visit and enjoy hot cocoa during the bus tour. Then a stop at an elegant and charming bed-and-breakfast, The Rosen House Inn on Henderson, will be a magical time to enjoy refreshments, arts and crafts and a visit with the man himself, jolly old Santa.

Carols will be sung by the DeZavala choir, and guests can even gather round the Festivus Pole (of Seinfeld fame) to air any grievances. The tour wraps up at The Space, where live music will end the evening’s festivities.

“Festivus is a great way to celebrate the holiday season and really show off the spirit and beauty of our neighborhood,” said Fairmount resident Alex Thieroff. “It takes a lot of us coming together to pull off such a special and magical evening. The proceeds go towards the Fairmount Neighborhood Association for the preservation, upkeep and improvements to our national historic district, and the toys are to be donated to One Safe Place.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children age 12 and under. Adults bringing a new unwrapped toy to donate will receive $2 off the ticket price. Purchase advance tickets online at www.historicfairmount.com or at the event.

‘PINK Southern Style’ theme for NCL Mother Daughter Tea

Mothers and daughters of the DFW Metroport Chapter of the National Charity League enjoyed a delightful afternoon at the club’s PINK Southern Style Mother Daughter Tea this fall in Grapevine.

Capturing the Southern charm of the theme, attendees wore their favorite boots and enjoyed the rustic vintage decor chosen for the event while sipping on sweet tea and sampling delicious pie and ice cream. PINK represents the NCL core values of “participate, inspire, nurture and kindness” and is frequently woven into the club’s activities.

Kelly Rothgeb was chairwoman of the tea with help from committee members Gina Ballweg, Marcy Calcagno, Jessica Christian, Connie Gust, Kathleen Johnson, Angela Soto and Jennifer Wouters, to randomly name only a few.

The 270-member DFW Metroport chapter was formed in 2003 for girls in grades 7-12 who live in Colleyville, Bedford, Grapevine, Southlake, North Richland Hills and Keller. Last year the chapter members logged nearly 5,000 volunteer hours serving 18 local philanthropies including the Gatehouse, Grace, Community Enrichment Center, Metroport Meals on Wheels and others.

Special guests at the tea were two former members of the chapter — one who is a cancer survivor shared her experiences in battling the disease, and another who shared how NCL membership benefited her during college and in launching her career after graduation.

Mothers had the opportunity to participate in the “Tradition of the Tea Cup” by serving their daughter a cup of tea to represent the bond between them.

“The teacup is another way to remind our daughters how precious they are to us and that we want to be a part of their lives in the good times and bad,” explained club spokeswoman Vanessa Enloe.

To inquire about this NCL chapter, contact Enloe at vpenloe@verizon.net. Learn more by visiting dfwmetroport.nationalcharityleague.org.

Hello … This is Santa speaking

How thrilled would the little ones in your life be if they could have a personal phone conversation with Santa? Make this exciting opportunity a reality by signing up for this unique experience available on Dec. 14 and 15.

Co-hosted by Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth and Alliance For Children, the charities will coordinate the calls so that each child gets a personalized conversation with Santa himself.

A donation of $20 for a phone call or $50 for a FaceTime call can be arranged at www.CallsFromSanta.org until Wednesday. Volunteer Santas will place the calls between 6:30 and 8:30 both nights. Proceeds benefit both of the hosting charities.

According to a news release, The Warm Place — after 23 years of hosting the calls — has passed the event on to Ronald McDonald House and Alliance For Children to carry on the tradition of treating children to conversations with Santa.

“We were thrilled when we were contacted by The Warm Place to take over this event. What a great way to create holiday cheer and benefit two organizations that do so much to support children and families in Tarrant County,” said Jennifer Johns and Julie Evans, who lead the two charities.

Learn more about each organization and their impressive work in the community at www.rmhfw.org and www.allianceforchildren.org.

Please send your SocialEyes news tips to freeder@star-telegram.com. Keep up with even more community news by liking our page on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SocialEyes.ST. Twitter: @FayeReeder

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