Nonprofit charts path for young adults
By ANTHONY FLORES
Discovering the path that one is meant to walk in life can be clear to some, hazy to others, or for others may take ages to reveal itself.
For Vicky McCown, the executive director of Community Pathways, a new nonprofit in Liberty Hill, her life calling is now clear as day.
McCown, a volunteer at Operation Liberty Hill (OLH) and a veteran of 20 years working in youth ministry, decided to create Community Pathways after providing a home and mentorship for two young adults herself.
“In 2007, my husband and I took in our first student that was homeless,” she said. “After helping her, it was on my heart that there are just so many kids that need help.”
Community Pathways aims to help guide at-risk teenagers and young adults through life’s challenges by pairing them with mentors that can provide a positive influence.
“If they have someone to help them figure out life challenges and navigate through them, then they have a better chance of being a successful adult,” she said.
A combination of working with the high school for almost a decade and her time at OLH, McCown saw how much help could be provided.
“There continued to be a need for students that needed shelter or assistance, so I started volunteering at Operation Liberty Hill,” said McCown. “A lot of the students that I knew would come and see me and want to sit and talk. I figured out that this was something that was needed.”
The experience of working with OLH allowed McCown to put her skills as a youth minister into action. In one case, she was able to help someone struggling with substance abuse reconnect with her family, fight temptation, and ultimately find a job.
“She looked at me and said, ‘I’m tired of this life. I have the money in my purse to go to my dealer, and I don’t want to live this life anymore. I can’t even talk to my family or see my children,’” McCown recalled from one conversation. “I told her we would pray for strength and that any time she struggled with this addiction that she needed to take a few minutes and seek someone out, to work on something else, and try to keep her mind busy. We talked quite a bit, and as of now, she is drug-free and working.”
On another occasion, McCown and her husband took in the troubled grandson of a friend as he was getting out of prison. For the McCowns, it was almost Divine intervention that led to this.
“We had gone to church in 2016, around nine years after we had taken in Kayla,” she said. “My husband looked at me and said, ‘I guess we have to find another Kayla,’ and I said if God wants us to have another Kayla, he’ll send one,’ That was on Sunday. Wednesday, someone approached me and said, ‘I need some help finding a halfway house for my grandson,’ and right then, I knew that this was something I needed to talk to my husband about. I told him ‘God didn’t send us another Kayla, but he sent you a boy.’”
McCown provided a home for him and kept him on the straight and narrow for over a year. Since then, the young man has started a new life working as a driver in Austin.
It was after this that McCown saw the path she was meant to traverse, her calling in life.
“I thought okay, God, I get it, you want me to help those transition into adulthood or get back on their feet,” she said.
With her path clear, the next step for McCown and Community Pathways is building a group with the tools needed to provide guidance.
“In the beginning, we have to do a lot of recruiting of the volunteers and training,” she said. “I am currently finishing up my courses in a certificate of ministry from Austin Presbyterian Seminary.”
Creating a staff of volunteers that are regular people and aren’t professional counselors is an essential step for McCown. In her time working with young adults, the executive director finds that often students are more resistant to help in a professional setting.
“To me, it’s being there for them and not as a professional counselor. Because if you talk to these students about getting them to a professional counselor, a lot of them don’t want to go to a counselor,” she said. “Some of the students say, ‘I’ve been there, done that, and it doesn’t work.’ If you have someone who’s been through the same who is very empathetic and be a listening ear and friend, then they’re more willing to talk and get help.”
To help with volunteer work or to apply to be a mentor, members of the Liberty Hill community can reach out to McCown through the Community Pathways website, cpotx.org.
McCown hopes that her faith can strengthen her work with Community Pathways and strengthen relationships with others and their faith.
“Some students or even adults have been hurt by someone within the church or a Christian, and so one of my goals is to let them see Christ through what we do,” she said. “I want to show them unconditional love through our actions.”