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Purposeful Journey opens doors to café, youth center

South Boston News
Chase City Mayor Alden Fahringer, left, and Purposeful Journey founder Dwight Ashe welcome the crowd to the opening of the Chase City youth center.
SoVaNow.com / March 31, 2021
When Purposeful Journey Youth Center opened its doors to the public on Wednesday, the Town of Chase City got much more than a café selling baked goods. In back, there lies a world of enrichment opportunities for young people living in and around Chase City.

There is a stage with a large audience space for shows, musical instruments to play, a professional recording studio and a broadcast center for podcasts. Downstairs, there is a camera setup where Travon Walker and Medina Hickman can take cap and gown graduation portraits or candid shots, along with a game room with ping pong, air hockey and corn hole and an area set aside for painting.

That’s just the start. Purposeful Journey Youth Center founder and CEO Dwight Ashe said he’s working with a teacher who offers tutoring to students who are struggling with virtual learning, and he has future plans for empowerment programs for women, programs focused on mental health for children, and parenting classes for adults.

Ashe believes “if you help the parent, you help the child. I want these kids to grow up and thrive.”

The best part, it’s all free, though kids will be expected to earn opportunities to enjoy all that which is offered at the Youth Center by giving back through community service. Parents will be asked to sign a liability waiver before their children can participate in activities through Purposeful Journey.

Baked goods, coffee and drinks are sold at PJ’s Café, which is open Monday-Friday from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Revenues help to cover some of the costs associated with running the center. Ashe said donations are always welcome.

Pastries sold at PJ’s Café are brought in fresh from Crown’s Bakery in Atlanta every three days.

Pandemic restrictions related to public gatherings have kept Ashe from offering the full range of envisioned programs or even allowing full access to the center. But he emphasized, “We are open to the public. Help is on the way.”

Ashe said the idea for a community center for kids came to him about seven years ago while working with Kaprisha Hargrove at Save Our Futures — a licensed behavioral health agency providing mental health services to youths and adults. Ashe and Hargrove were looking for recreational opportunities for Hargrove’s son and other Chase City kids. With none to be found, they established a basketball league. It was an instant success. Until it was put on hold by the pandemic, the league had over 100 participants.

Ashe said he realized then that far too many young people in Chase City and surrounding areas were falling through the cracks. They were not “high risk,” so they did not qualify for services offered through Save Our Futures. They were struggling, nevertheless. They needed recreation as well as a place to express themselves, creatively, artistically and emotionally.

A few of the most promising ones moved away, some joined the military, other enrolled in college and accepted jobs away from the area after graduating. He decided the town needed a place where local youths could build early positive memories that would draw them back to share their talents and help the area thrive.

“None of this would have been possible without the support of my mentor Mrs. [Kaprisha] Hargrove,” Ashe said on Wednesday as he stood beaming like a proud papa showing off his newborn to friends, town leaders and others.

He started small, “stacking backpacks, offering free before school haircuts, delivering gifts of food at Thanksgiving.” He drew in the kids. They sold t-shirts and water and Gatorade at events. He reached out to friends and mentors to requisition supplies and equipment.

One friend, Ronald Bowen, chief operating officer of Good Stuff Pipe and Tobacco, donated the equipment for the recording studio while another friend, Henry Tuck, shared his expertise in helping to set up the studio and the sound equipment.

Del. Tommy Wright (R-61) who attended Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, said he was impressed by all the center had to offer. “Our young people are our most valuable resource. This [center] will get kids out of the house and away from their computers. It shows what a community can do when it comes together.”

Chase City Mayor Alden Fahringer added his belief that Purposeful Journey would give kids living in and around Chase City “the tools they need to grow up and survive.” He called Ashe and the center “a wonderful asset to the community.”

Ashe said his dream is for everyone in town to get involved with the center or one of its activities personally or by donating.

Donations to support Purposeful Journey are tax deductible since it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. To find out how best to support the organization, contact Ashe at (434) 547-7750, email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or online at http://www.facebook.com/purposefully.journey.

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