Why do kids gather on a regular basis in the old Wool and Mohair Warehouse located at 5th and Pecan Streets in Blanco? What do they do there? Why are more and more students at Blanco High School wearing “Young Life” t-shirts? What’s with “WyldLife”? This reporter decided to find out.
The Blanco County News editor, Charles Willgren, suggested that I start with Doug Pautz, a local dentist, marathoner, former motorcyclist, husband of the very accomplished musician and aficionado of the arts, Vickie Pautz, and one to whom the quality of life in the Blanco community is very important.
When Dr. Pautz returned my call, he informed me that he has been actively involved with Young Life for several years as a volunteer leader and admitted to having been instrumental in the process that recently brought new professional leadership to the local Young Life organization. He directed me to a Mr. Tucker Morrow and I made arrangements to meet the said Mr. Morrow at the old Mohair Warehouse.
I found the 22-year-old, newly appointed leader of the organization to be straightforward, outgoing, and easy to talk with. He said he is replacing Steve Mackey, the fellow who headed up Blanco Young Life for four years.
“He was a big guy who pumped iron and to whom young people looked as a role model and mentor,” said Morrow.
“For one such as I, who is less than fully informed,” I queried, “just what is ‘Young Life’?”
“Young Life,” he replied, “is an international organization that is found in 67 countries throughout the world. It was started in Dallas in 1941 by Jim Rayburn.”
“We’re not directly affiliated with a church,” said Tucker. “We don’t want to replace. We want to get the kids that might not seem interested in religion and we plug them into a church. Our ultimate goal is for every kid in Blanco High School and Middle School to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“We like to think of the weekly get-togethers as a party with a purpose. It’s controlled chaos that’s almost impossible to describe, but kids know it when they see it. And before the party ends, we share a simple message about God’s love for them. After all, that’s what the celebration is all about.”
“Every middle and high school kid is welcome. We want them to feel wanted and appreciated when they might not be getting those things at home. We want to build real relationships with the youth. We want them to know that we accept them no matter what and we respect them. Although we meet regularly on Monday nights,” said Mr. Morrow, “Young Life is an every day thing.”
The middle school component of the organization is called “WyldLife.” Having been a middle school administrator, that seemed an appropriate moniker to me.
“My future wife will be heading up the middle school program,” said Mr. Morrow. “Page Piatnik (23) and I will be married on October 6. She is from Bulverde and attended Incarnate Word in San Antonio. I am from Sugar Land, Texas, and attended Trinity University. That was because one of my parents was a Texas Aggie and the other was a Longhorn. I decided I had better go somewhere neutral. Page and I were both Young Life volunteer leaders in college and that’s how we met. We had a great time serving both in high school and in college and after graduating, we decided we wanted to be full time Young Life leaders.”
I was given a brief tour of the rustic but impressive facilities. I noted what some would call graffiti on a couple of the old board walls. Only the scrawled names were followed by dates such as 1938 and 1945.
“I’m glad they didn’t cover those up or paint over them,” said Mr. Morrow. “That is an important part of Blanco history.”
An ancient adult beverage bar had been converted into a snack bar. There was a stage that featured various percussion and other instruments. Pre-owned but inviting lounge chairs were arranged in conversational groupings. There were game tables and even a small library. But most impressive was the well-equipped weight training room.
“Many of the students athletes like to come here to work out in the off season,” said Mr. Morrow. “My predecessor, Mr. Mackey, was responsible for equipping this area. This was one of his passions.”
“I hope this old floor will handle the weight,” I volunteered. Mr. Morrow responded that the old Wool and Mohair Warehouse was completely refurbished by owner Larry Franklin, who did an outstanding job and made it into a place where young people’s lives are changed forever. A more recent addition is the basketball facility located under a steel-framed pavilion behind the main building.
I discovered that Young Life is supported by adults who care about kids in the community. For every talented Young Life staff person there is a team of dedicated volunteer leaders who work directly with kids.
“Douglas Pautz is such a volunteer leader,” said Tucker. “He can always be found with the kids. He attends their gatherings and is most popular with them.”
Both Tucker and Page are paid professionals. “In order to support the program,” said Tucker, “it will be necessary to bring in about $16,000 in addition to our normal fund-raising activities. These funds will have to come from friends, families and other donors. “The results are worth every penny.”
The mission of Young Life is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and to help them grow in their faith. They accomplish this by praying for young people, going where kids are, developing unconditional friendships with kids, providing experiences that are safe, fun, adventurous and life-changing, sharing the Good News of Christ, encouraging kids to deepen their relationship with God, helping them develop the skills, assets and attitudes to reach their full, God-given potential, encouraging them to become involved in a local church, working with a team of like-minded individuals—volunteer leaders, committee members, donors and staff, and involving parents who can take a very active role by participating on the Parent Support Team.
Well, this reporter came away from his visit with Mr. Tucker Morrow more informed and, consequently, more positively inclined toward “Young Life.” If the values of Young Life are shared by readers, it seems to me that there is lots of room for additional qualified volunteers.