Grace to Youth exists for the purpose of working primarily with young men who have been placed in various juvenile detention and correctional facilities, primarily in Dallas and Tarrant County, but also in facilities across the state of Texas. It is our goal to minister to the spiritual and physical needs of these youth. We work to provide opportunities for personal and family growth by means of biblical, educational, recreational and vocational input. We also seek to provide information and resources for parents that would benefit them as they seek to raise their children with biblical values.
While the organization Grace to Youth has only recently been formed, the work we are involved in is nothing new. Since the mid-1990s, Ernie Black, our founder and board member, has had a part-time ministry with these youth. Ernie became involved in volunteering at the Dallas County Youth Village and, to a lesser extent, the Dallas County Detention Center in 1996. (Youth Village is a long term residential treatment facility run by Dallas County. The youth are general offenders who have repeatedly gotten in trouble with the law. The term of the youth’s stay is determined by their behavior and successful completion of the program. Residents generally stay from 6 months to 1 year and are boys ages 13 to 18.) Since that time, he has routinely completed 40 hours of training per year including courses in restraint technique, suicide prevention, violence prevention, and de-escalation.
Ernie’s training, along with his consistent display of maturity and competence in dealing with the youth, has allowed him to oversee 8 residents without staff supervision both on and off the Youth Village campus. This has given him tremendous opportunities for educational, vocational, and spiritual involvement in their lives. For example, he has regularly been involved with the residents at Youth Village providing tutoring, vocational instruction such as electrical training, supervision of service and community projects, assistance with job interviews, and leadership for a variety of individual and small group Bible studies.
Ernie has also facilitated the involvement of Countryside Bible Church in ministering to the young men at Youth Village. He has regularly brought groups of high school and college guys to Youth Village to participate with the residents in recreational activities, Bible studies, and worship services. He has also arranged for Christmas gifts, clothing, and other needs to be provided for residents by church members. Ernie also has consistently brought residents of Youth Village to services and youth activities at Countryside Bible Church.
In 2005, Ernie became involved in volunteering at a number of facilities that are run by the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). These are long term residential and institutional treatment facilities that are run by the State of Texas (as opposed to Youth Village, which is run by Dallas County). One can be placed in TYC if the county has no county treatment program, by unsuccessful completion of a county program, or by the seriousness of their crime(s). Length of stay ranges from a minimum of 9 months to up till they reach their 19th birthday, at which time they are either released or transferred to the Texas Department of Corrections – adult prison.
Ernie has particularly been involved in the TYC McFadden Ranch facility, in Roanoke. His involvement there is very similar to his involvement at Youth Village including tutoring, bible studies, community service projects and a variety of other activities. He also has consistently brought residents to services and activities at Countryside Bible Church and taken youth from the church to be involved with the guys at McFadden Ranch in recreation and Bible study. Ernie also regularly takes residents from McFadden Ranch, to the Gulf Coast Trade Center in Houston for vocational training.
Through relationships built with guys at Youth Village and McFadden Ranch, Ernie has become involved in a number of other state facilities including Cottrell House, Marlin Orientation and Assessment Unit, Gainesville State School, and the Sheffield Boot Camp. While he does not spend much time at these facilities, he makes occasional trips to them and corresponds frequently with some of the residents there in an effort at continuing to mentor and encourage them.
Ernie’s part-time volunteer work became a full-time ministry in 2006 with the forming of Grace to Youth. Grace to Youth, primarily through the work of Ernie Black, is currently working with young men in eight county and state facilities, as well as continuing to minister to a number of the youth and their families after their release from the juvenile system. We look forward to continuing these activities and to expanding to other opportunities as time and resources allow. As you can see, our activities are not geared at programs, but at people. While we in no way expect to impact all these young men who have been placed in various juvenile detention and correctional facilities, we do look forward to continuing to impact some. By becoming involved in the individual lives of some of these young men, we believe we can have a real ministry both to their physical needs such as clothing and vocational training, and more importantly their spiritual needs through the presentation of the life-changing Word of God.