Providing Thought Leadership / July 18, 2019
It Takes a Village
As a child, Bill Taylor grew up in the Beecher Terrance housing project in Louisville, Kentucky. At 13-years old, his good-natured mischief would often get him in trouble. But the neighborhood was more like family and if an elder observed his misbehavior, they would call him out, address him sternly and advise him of a better path.
It was very clear that all the people who knew Bill’s mother, also knew she was a staunch disciplinarian. Bill certainly knew his mother had made her expectations for him very clear – expectations that did not include ending up in trouble or in jail. She had enlisted and strongly encouraged every adult in Bill’s neighborhood, church, family and school that any misbehavior from Bill should be reported to her. So, when Bill was gifted a free, full-membership to the YMCA, his village changed and his life-long commitment as a volunteer began.
The Village that Raised Bill
The YMCA is known for athletics, swimming and camp. Bill’s path involved those events, but his failure to be good enough to get picked for basketball meant he spent hours learning the game of chess from the seniors who visited. Chess was more than a game for Bill. It taught him to exercise his mind and engage in critical thinking to sharpen his problem-solving skills.
The adults at the YMCA embraced Bill, not as troubled kid, but as someone who needed direction. They taught him how to learn and interact with others positively. Their guidance helped Bill improve in school and quit misbehaving at church. The YMCA was the village that helped raised Bill, and he knew that he wanted to pay it all back when he could.
As an adult, Bill signed up in the U.S. Navy. He returned home and honored his mother with volunteer work on the advisory board for the American Red Cross, Junior Achievement and served as a Boy Scout troop leader – all with the goal to support great causes.
In 2012, Bill toured the YMCA Safe Place Services facility. During his tour, Bill discovered the mission of the organization had changed since its inception in 1970. The new programs focused on supporting teens of incarcerated parents and teens from all walks of life.
Bill began serving for the teen outreach service. The group canvases the streets of Louisville, visiting noted teen hangouts – such as the skate park, downtown underpasses and other public areas for temporarily displaced or homeless teens. Their goal is to reunite them with family and serve as a pathway to direct them to available resources that will positively affect their lives now and in the future.
Giving a Hand Up, Not a Handout
One of Bill’s most rewarding encounters came to him on a street ball court in the community. A young lady once called him out at an event. She said to him, “I don’t need your pity or your big puppy dog eyes. Don’t feel sorry for me! If you want to help me, I want a job, so I can take care of myself.”
Her words were sobering, and Bill came to accept that he could do better. He shared the experience with the counselor staff. The young lady was hired by Safe Place Services and has gone on to do well for herself.
“The value of human interaction gives back to the Louisville community and that truly helps out teens and their families live their best lives,” Bill said.
YMCA Safe Place Services
YMCA Safe Place Services is a branch of the YMCA of Greater Louisville. They are committed to making the community stronger by providing help, hope and healing to teens and families in crisis. The YMCA mission is to accept, affirm and advocate for youth by empowering them to reach their full potential in spirit, mind and body. The YMCA is a national organization – with home headquarters in Louisville, KY. Click here to learn more.
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