By Nolan Patrick Smith
(Victorville) With the holiday season comes the chill of season. The cold cuts through our sweaters and coats as we race inside to our homes. But imagine how cold it is for those with no coats, with no home to go to in the midst of a cold snap. That’s is where a group of four teenagers and a foster youth consultant plan to help for the holidays.
The YES Center, based in Victorville, is the hub for what is hoping to be an extremely successful warm drive, collecting blankets, jackets, sweaters, socks and anything else that is warm. Trinity Wallace-Ellis, the Foster Youth Services Specialist Consultant at the YES Center, has been working with a group of four students for weeks on end, shaping them to become productive, caring members of the community. The four students Christopher Baldwin, 16, Derian Gutierres, 16, Brandon Brown, 17 (not available for the interview) and Tomas Beers, 17, are all placed at the Clearview Treatment Center in Apple Valley; All are looking to bring a smile to the face of the homeless this December.
“These donations are for homeless people, who struggle keeping themselves warm in the winter,” said Derian Gutierres regarding the warm drive. “We’re gathering clothes, blankets, sweaters to help them keep warm and stay warm.”
Christopher Baldwin spoke on the impact they hope the drive has on youth in the community, “We’re doing this to encourage other youth to do positive things. We’re trying to be positive role models, so we thought this would be a good idea.”
The four, all below the age of eighteen, have all went down a wrong path here and there in the journey of life. Criminal backgrounds, history with drugs, various wrong choices that they are all aiming to correct. Tomas Beers touched on his background and how being at Clearview changed him, as well as what it means to do what they are doing, “It made me realize that I could do much better in life. I don’t need drugs; I could do better without drugs. Doing this, helping homeless people and putting a smile on their face, it helps them to look forward to the next day. “
The four young men are doing this drive as part of the Ambassadors of Compassion Program. What are the Ambassadors of Compassion? Trinity Wallace-Ellis broke it down for High Desert Daily: “The Ambassadors of Compassion program was started by an organization called Lift Up America. What it was set up to do was to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds recognize that no matter what they have been through, no matter where they come from, no matter how much they messed up, their life has purpose. They have to make a contribution to this world to make it a better place. The final part of this is to complete an act of service: do something to lift up your community. So these young men decided, since all of them have experienced homeless at one point in their life. They told me that one of the worst parts about being homeless, even more than not having enough food, was being cold. So they decided they wanted to create warmth for everyone. They wanted to collect blankets, socks, hats; warm clothes, and donate it to the homeless population so that they too could experience warmth during the coldest months of the year up here.”
The drive, which runs up until December 21st, is accepting donations of gently used blankets, hats, sweaters, scarves, coats, socks, warm shoes, anything warm at the YES Center in Victorville, as well as at the office of the Community Day School next door to the YES Center. Even heaters are being accepted, as Trinity explained that the definition of homeless encompasses a lot more than most would think. ““Homeless doesn’t just mean you are sleeping in a park or under a bridge. If you don’t have a bed, you’re homeless. If you’re couch surfing with your friends, you’re considered homeless. If you are moving from place to place to place every 30, 60 or 90 days, you’re considered homeless. We want to come up with some awareness as well as to what it means to be homeless, and to hopefully mitigate some of the shame that’s associated with being homeless. Because there are many, many reasons why folks are experiencing homelessness, and the reality is, most of us are one or two paychecks away from being homeless ourselves.”
Once the four complete this act of service, they will become Ambassadors of Compassion. In Spring 2013, the four will be honored at Angels Stadium in Orange County for the work they have done. To drop off your gently used warm items, stop by The YES Center at 15733 First Street, Room 9 in Victorville by the deadline, December 21st. For more information on the drive, feel free to call Trinity at (760) 241-2344. For more information on the Ambassadors of Compassion, visit them online at www.aoclife.com.