By Jade Ortego

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - The United Way of Central Texas recognized Central Texas Youth Services, an organization that provides emergency shelter and transitional living for runaway or otherwise homeless youth, and its director, Keith Wallace, as its Agency of the Year.

During the Bell County commissioners court meeting Monday, Wallace was recognized for his work with troubled youth. Central Texas Youth Services' Option House, which has been running for more than three decades, is the only licensed emergency home for youth in Central Texas, Wallace said.

Central Texas Youth Services also runs transitional living services, helping those who have dropped out of or become too old for foster care, and a street outreach program that provides food, hygiene, counseling and other services for street youth. Its gives them the opportunity to set up a phone number, e-mail account and a mail drop to help them get jobs.

Central Texas Youth Services works with youth in Bell, Coryell and McLennan counties. One-third of about 4,000 youth the organization works with annually are military dependents.

"They don't know what to do. They're just trying to survive," Precinct 1 Commissioner Richard Cortese said.

Wallace told the court about how a 17-year-old girl was involved in forced prostitution; her pimps threatened her in attempt to get her 14-year-old sister to work for them. She came to Central Texas Youth Services for help, and they participated in a sting operation that helped detain her pimps for trafficking women.

Commissioners also announced an open house public meeting for the Texas Department of Transportation's plan 2035 from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Central Texas Council of Governments building at 2810 N. Main St. in Belton.

Meetings on plan 2035, a long-range, statewide plan, are being conducted in May across the state. The meetings are come-and-go; residents can ask questions and provide feedback to TxDOT. More information is available at

Contact Jade Ortego at or (254) 501-7553. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcourts.

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