Youth from the Base Chapel’s Protestant parish joined the Antelope Valley Dream Center June 7 to bring “hope” to the Lancaster community. The Dream Center partners with local churches to provide a monthly day of fun at Neighborhood Impact Houses in Lancaster, California.
According to AV Dream Center co-founder John Perry, an Edwards AFB senior audio engineer with Media Fusion, the Adopt-a-Block program is designed to change the atmosphere in a neighborhood for the positive through building relationships in the community. On the first Saturday of each month, volunteers from the center gather at the Neighborhood Impact Homes where they play games, prepare lunches and teach Bible verses to local children and their parents.
Currently, the center offers Adopt-a-Block programs at two Neighborhood Impact Homes. The homes are owned by the City of Lancaster and rented to local churches for afterschool programs. The junior and senior high school-aged youths from Edwards and their leaders spent their Saturday at the El Dorado Community House, which is rented by Christian Life Assembly and Total Deliverance Church.
“It was such a great opportunity to get out and support the community through simple acts that show we care. I really enjoyed talking with the children, hearing their struggles and encouraging them to pursue their dreams,” said Capt. Michael Pacini, 416th Flight Test Squadron, F-16 test pilot and youth leader at the Base Chapel.
Some of those simple acts included playing Frisbee golf, face painting and battling the neighborhood children in a water balloon fight. Perry added that children are given the opportunity to earn “Dream Dollars” that can be spent in the dream store for toys or other prizes. Dream Dollars are awarded for bringing friends, memorizing Bible verses or being caught in a random act of kindness.
“The benefit of why we’re doing all of this – the big picture – is to show God’s love and to honor Him through the work that we’re doing,” said Perry.
Capt. Jacob Debevec, 412th Test Wing, executive officer and Base Chapel youth leader, added that “[Christian ministry] is something that we’re called to do.”
The AV Dream Center has sponsored the Adopt-a-Block program at the El Dorado house for seven months. In that time, they have seen children build friendships with “kids in their neighborhood that they would normally not talk to.”
According to Perry, the program is also working to reduce bullying in the neighborhood. The volunteers teach the children to earn the respect of other children by using positive actions instead of demanding respect through aggression.
“I think it’s easy for young children to mentally limit themselves based on their circumstances. This country is still a place where anyone can become anything if they’re willing to work for it. Sometimes kids just need to be encouraged to pursue their dreams. I believe that a strong foundation knowing Jesus is the first step for these children to feel a sense of value and purpose,” said Pacini.
The Antelope Valley Dream Center is a non-profit organization inspired by the Los Angeles Dream Center. The AV Center was founded by Perry and his wife, Denise.
“Our board members were very impressed with the fact that the team from Edwards showed up with a smile on their face and dove right in with these kids and these families,” said Perry. “They looked like they really enjoyed being here.”
Debevec shared that, “students from 7th to 12th grade interested in the Protestant Youth group are always welcome. The youth group meets at Chapel 2 every Thursday from 6-8 p.m. for Christian discipleship and fellowship.”
“I’ve been given many opportunities to succeed because there were so many people in my life willing to put in the time and encourage me. I have been so blessed in this life and feel that it’s my responsibility to return the favor,” said Pacini. “As a Christian, I am inspired by the example that Jesus set to love and help those in need. I know that everything I have is thanks to God and that it’s my responsibility to share His love.”