by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Life wasn’t always easy for James Holt, a parishioner at Holy Trinity in Lenexa and volunteer at The Hope Center here.
“I grew up in a little town in Oklahoma,” he said. “I grew up in the not- so-desirable part of town.”
But Holt worked hard and earned a spot on the University of Kansas football team from 2005-08, during which time he played on the university’s 2008 Orange Bowl team.
Then his talent took him even further — to a spot on the Los Angeles Chargers.
Now retired from the sport, Holt is helping kids experiencing similar challenges he faced growing up, spending one evening a week after work volunteering at The Hope Center.
“I only wish I had something like this that provides not only a safe place,” he said, “but a place that shows [kids] that they can thrive, even though there’s certain circumstances that are around them.”
The Hope Center is a nondenominational faith-based ministry in the east urban side of Kansas City, Missouri.
It offers various programs for youth and adults, including a charter school, medical clinic, developmental youth programs, a men’s support group, family trauma counseling and emergency food services, said CEO Marvin Daniels.
Volunteers like Holt help the center run smoothly.
“Having volunteers like James who identify culturally, socially and psychologically is critical to the work The Hope Center KC does in our community,” said Daniels.
“Our mission of providing asset-based developmental opportunities for our community to flourish is attainable with both staff and volunteers who are relatable,” he added.
Holt’s volunteer work includes hanging out with high school aged kids, eating dinner with them and helping lead educational activities, which often focus on Scripture.
“It’s incredible how much these kids know the Bible,” said Holt. “These kids really know the stories and the messages behind it, [and we help them] understand it and how they can apply it to everyday life.
“[We] help them become better leaders in their community, as well as the world.”
For Holt, it’s important to give kids a safe, faith-based place to hang out, especially during a time when Kansas City has experienced considerable violence.
“It’s pretty easy for these kids to fall into that and give up hope,” he said. “The structures that they have here and the volunteers that come in are totally awesome.
“It gives them that chance. They want to learn and they want to be better.”
Kids who come to The Hope Center learn Christian values that they can apply to their daily lives.
“They don’t always get that in the day in and day out of their life,” said Holt. “It’s a good place for them to come in and have role models.”
Daniels said The Hope Center’s work is crucial to give young people in Kansas City hope for a bright future.
“There are enough negative images presented to them,” he said. “When volunteers like James show up, students have the opportunity to see a picture of their future selves.”
Holt looks forward to The Hope Center’s continued growth and expanded presence in Kansas City.
“I know they have bigger ambitions to do a lot more for the community,” he said. “I’ll be excited to see that unfold as time goes on.”
To donate, to volunteer or for more information about The Hope Center, visit the website at: hopecenterkc.org.