Steered to Serve

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Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 1:14 pm

Keith Wallace, aka “Hot Rod,” is one fellow who truly wears many hats. A rocking musician who dons a colorful and unique wardrobe of wigs, sunglasses and even sequined jackets, Hot Rod knows how to rev up a crowd with an outrageous stage performance. However, it’s his full-time gig that really shifts his life’s passion into gear as the executive director of the Central Texas Youth Services Bureau.

Steered toward helping Central Texas children and youths, Keith Wallace, aka “Hot Rod,” knows only one speed — full throttle. This McGregor High School graduate is a former runaway himself and knows firsthand what it’s like to leave home and live alone on the streets at only 16 years old.

“I never returned home once I left. I ended up ‘couch surfing’ for a while, sleeping on the couches at friends’ houses and moving around a lot until I joined the (United States Air Force),” Wallace said. “Four years later, I sustained a career-ending injury and got out. I went to college at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene and got my degree in psychology and focused on family therapy counseling.”

Even during his military career and college years, Wallace spent his weekends doing volunteer work with at-risk youths, specifically street kids. “I could always identify the street kids. Even though they try to prevent drawing attention to themselves and try to blend in with the other kids, you can figure out who they are,” he said.

After college, Wallace went to work at the Abilene State School, where he counseled medically-fragile youths who had intellectual disabilities. It took a little more than 14 years and a classified newspaper ad to finally catch his attention and beckon him home — back to Central Texas. The classified ad was for a position with the Central Texas Youth Services Bureau. That was 21 years ago. Today Wallace is the executive director and chief executive officer of CTYB and still working with children and at-risk youths from across Central Texas.

The CTYB relies on funding from federal grants and state contracts to support the various programs it offers children, including independent and transitional living programs, a maternity group home, safe place and drop-in centers, a 24-hour crisis hot line, transitional resource centers and street outreach for survival, as well as an option house emergency shelter.

“The housing programs offer youths a safe place to come in off the street and get a hot meal, take a shower, sleep in a bed, and a place to do their laundry,” Wallace said. “We also offer additional resources to help them develop life skills they need to live on their own and assistance with finding jobs. Ultimately, the purpose is to help them get on their feet, find work and start saving money so they can eventually get out on their own and start supporting themselves.”

Wallace started the Taste of Central Texas, an annual gala held the last Tuesday in March, more than 13 years ago to help raise the additional funds needed to support these vital youth programs. Every year, generous restaurants, chefs, caterers and vendors from across Central Texas provide tasty samples of some of their best specialties. The crowd gets to vote on its favorite food, best-decorated booth and the most entertaining booth and enjoy musical entertainment.

“It’s really a fun event. The food is great! Even though the servings are small, there are so many booths it’s hard to visit them all. By the end of the night you’re completely stuffed,” Wallace said.

PROJECT SOS

Street Outreach for Survival

This is the only program of its kind along the I-35 corridor between Dallas and Austin. For just $15, a backpack with essential supplies can be provided to runaway and homeless youths, making a big difference in their lives and aiding in survival. A $15 donation puts a backpack full of essential survival items in the hands of a runaway or homeless youth.

The SOS backpacks contains: socks, blanket, water bottle, non-perishable food items, personal hygiene items, first aid kit, and resource card with phone numbers and the locations of shelters and other social service agencies.

CENTRAL TEXAS YOUTH SERVICES BUREAU

Provides emergency shelter, transitional living, independent living, maternity group home, street outreach for runaway and homeless children and youths, information and referral services at no cost to eligible children and youths throughout Central Texas.

24-Hour Crisis Care Hotline

1.800.421.TEEN (8336)

New and used clothing and products for infants, children and youths are always appreciated and needed. For more information on how to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact:

Central Texas Youth Services

204 N. East Street, Suite A

Belton, Texas 76513

254.939.3466

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