Dwayne Walton, executive director of The Point in Parkesburg, is the recipient of the Give Gratitude Community Service Award from a national Christian radio station. Walton was chosen from the greater Philadelphia region, which encompasses the areas from Reading to the Jersey Shore.
Local resident Emma Jean nominated Walton for the award due to his commitment to youths in the area. "It came as a total surprise to me," Walton said. "There are so many people who make The Point what it is, from a strong board of volunteers from different churches to over 500 volunteers a month who come to work with these kids (to) our staff."
Renata Bass, promotions manager for the radio station, presented Walton with the award during a ceremony held at The Point in December.
Walton has been executive director at The Point since June 2005, and before that, he served as a volunteer. Now 36, Walton lives in the area with his wife, Amy, and their children, Elijah and Eliana. But his childhood was very different than his life today. He was born in Guyana, South America, and came to the United States as a child with his family, settling in New York City.
"We lived in a basement apartment, 11 of us. As an immigrant, I understand feeling different, feeling out of place. My family struggled, but we knew we were in the United States, the greatest nation with the greatest opportunities," he said. "You have dreams and hopes, but reality crashes in. Between 1990 and 1995 I saw the homelessness of my mother (and the death of my) two uncles and my father."
Life changed for Walton when Campus Crusade visited his classroom and challenged the young men to come play basketball. "After the game, they told us they wanted to talk to us about spiritual things. They said, 'Do you know God loves you?' We heard that a lot. It seems cliche, but for a young kid growing up in my environment, it was both refreshing and also horrifying," he recalled. "There was no question I believed in God, but I didn't think He cared about me. Why would He? Hearing that really opened my eyes."
With the help of his mentor, Willie Branch, Walton was put on the track to success. "If it wasn't for him, I would not have taken school seriously," he said.
After high school, Walton attended and graduated from Philadelphia Biblical University, now known as Cairn University. "I (did not) want to go into church ministry (or) an established ministry. I wanted something that is fresh and different because the way I came to know Christ was very different; it was on the basketball court," he said. "I really wanted to be a part of something that was different, and The Point was."
Supported by the community and more than 30 local churches, The Point is open every weekday for young people ages 8 to 18. The organization provides activities, sports, educational and enrichment programs and meals in a safe, faith-based environment. There are more than 800 young people registered at The Point, with an average of 60 to 70 on-site each day.
"We take seriously the importance of providing them with safety when they're here," Walton said. "We have wonderful people to supervise and tend to them, but (we) also (have) an inspirational message from the Bible that can encourage them. Kids today are faced with more than we can imagine."
For the future, The Point is hoping to create outdoor facilities for sports and is planning new programs to introduce students to vocational fields. "We want to give (youths) the ability to build a very successful life," Walton said.
The Point is located at 700 Main St., Parkesburg. For more information, readers may contact Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-857-3393, ext. 2. More information about The Point is available at http://www.parkesburgpoint.com or on Facebook by searching for "Parkesburg Point."