Church grant will help nonprofit finish new shelter for children

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MIDWEST CITY — The Mid-Del Youth and Family Center soon will be moving into a new emergency shelter, with the help of a partnership designed to assist children in the community facing troubled times.

“Children come and stay with us on a very small temporary basis, until they are able to place them into a foster home or kinship home,” said Darla Cheek, executive director of the shelter.

“I love seeing them come in so broken and leave in a much better position,” she said.

The new center will accommodate about 12 children at a time, and Cheek said it will be a blessing to the nonprofit and those who stay there.

The current facility has space for 10 children, Cheek said.

Cheek hopes to move in early this year but has experienced a few setbacks.

Last year, several air-conditioning units were stolen from the new building, but Cheek remains positive they can replace them.

“Just when I think that we are not going to be making headway on a situation, then the floodgates open and you see nothing but progress,” she said.

‘A better life’

The center must also be certified by the Department of Human Services before opening, and a grant from the new church partner has helped.

Life.Church’s Midwest City campus has provided volunteers to help with operations for several years, and recently provided an $8,000 grant to help finish the shelter.

“We truly believe that the church is the hope of the world. So out of Mid-Del Youth and Family Center we saw tons of hope,” said Al Garza, pastor of Life.Church Midwest City LifeMissions.

Garza plans to have a team of volunteers from his church spend a day at the shelter before it opens, to finish the final preparations.

“Whenever something happens here in the community, where there is maybe a domestic issue and the child has to be taken care of, then Mid-Del Youth and Family Center is there to provide a safe environment,” Garza said.

The current facility on the north side of Midwest City is showing its age.

“We discovered that she (Cheek) was doing a big work in our city,” Garza said. “They do so many things inside our city.”

The new shelter will be a big change, with several acres of land and updated living areas, Cheek said.

“It has served its purpose, but outlived its purpose,” said Brandon Clabes, Midwest City Police Chief, of the shelter that’s about to be replaced.

The Mid-Del Youth and Family Center has had a partnership with the police department during Clabes’ 37 years with the department.

“When we come into contact with juveniles, we cannot drop them off anywhere we want to, we have a responsibility to the child and their relatives,” Clabes said.

When officers come in contact with children, Clabes said, they have the option of taking them to the shelter, letting them have a cooling-off period or giving them a place to stay.

“It is a community effort, not just the Mid-Del Youth and Family, it is law enforcement, city services and the community as a whole, to make a better life for some of these children who need it during a crucial time,” Clabes said.

The address of the new shelter will not be disclosed, for the safety of the children, Cheek said.

CAPTION:  Darla Cheek, executive director of the Mid-Del Youth and Family Center, and Al Garza, Life.Church Midwest City LifeMissions pastor, survey the backyard of the new shelter. [Photo by Eriech Tapia]

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