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The New Valley Dream Center opened its facilities this week to host a tour to friends, volunteers, partners and law enforcement. In January, it will be a home for women in need of transitional housing, among many other things. The new facility spans across 4 acres. Formerly owned by California Christian College, its located on the corner of Winery and University just across from the Discovery Center.
The Valley Dream Center currently networks with over a dozen other nonprofits they call “Strategic Partners” to make a bigger impact together. Their philosophy is to value what other organizations are already doing well, and to work together. They are seeking more Strategic Partners as well as volunteers.
With big vision, the mission of the Valley Dream Center is to Rescue those with immediate needs, Restore individuals and families back to health, and Release people back into the workplace. The organization started just about a year and half ago. “The Valley Dream Center restores what generational poverty has stole: the hope for a better future and the resources to make it happen”, says President and Founder Rene Charest.
It all started about a year and half ago when Charest, who is also Executive Pastor at Valley Christian Center on Shields and Chestnut was reaching out to their neighborhood schools. He was overwhelmed by the needs he saw. Around the same time, he and his team visited the Dream Center in Los Angeles and were inspired to bring what they learned back home.
Using what they learned, they started an adopt-a-block program where they would focus all their outreach efforts in one strategic area: University Avenue. With their team of volunteers, they also partnered up with Gangland Redemption a local non-profit reaching out to youth. Making routine visits to the neighborhood, the group spent time getting to know their neighbors and sought to find out what their needs were. Some days they would set up a barbecue and cook everyone a meal. Another time they did a neighborhood clean-up project and hauled away unwanted items. Other days they would distribute groceries to local residents in need.
They have also hosted several “Laundry of Love” events where they invite everyone in the neighborhood down to the local Laundromat. While there, they provide quarters and laundry soap, and board games and other activities for the kids. The goal has always been to establish relationships with the people and show love for them through simple, practical, and impactful ways.
A few months ago, Charest and a friend were walking the neighborhood when they saw Wendell Walley, the president of California Christian College working on the roof of one of the buildings. They stopped, talked, and found out that Walley had just put the property up for sale. It was the perfect location, in the heart of their “adopted” neighborhood and just over a mile away from where their church is located. Fast forward to today, through much dreaming, planning, strategizing and networking, The Dream Center Vision is much bigger than it once was just a year and a half ago.
One of the many buildings on the property is a dormitory with 20 bedrooms, 10 bathrooms and a kitchen area. There are also two apartments on the property. These buildings will be temporary homes for women and their children in need of a little extra help to get on their feet. That can include women overcoming drug addictions, needing shelter from abusive relationships, or those who are just getting out of prison and may be estranged from family.
While staying at the Valley Dream Center a variety of other resources will be made available to the women and their children through strategic partnerships with other local non-profits and using the facilities already located on the grounds. These resources will include GED Programs, Celebrate Recovery, one on one counseling, anger management classes, job training, parenting workshops and much more. Children will be provided with an after school program, and there is also a gymnasium on the property they will have access to.
David and Jerri Plassman, a couple who have already had great success overseeing the Willow Community Garden, plan to take on the Valley Dream Center garden as their next project. The grounds will host raised beds with drip irrigation, and will teach organic gardening practices. Their vision is to help women to reconnect with food in it’s created form, encourage healthy eating create a generational change towards health.
Years ago, the Fresno Unified School district donated some old school buildings the the college. They were moved to the property. These buildings will serve many functions at the dream center.
Job Training- The Valley Dream Center plans to teach soft skills like Resume Prep, and job interview skills, but will also go more in depth, drawing on local volunteer tradesmen to teach things like plumbing and woodworking skills.
Wellness Center-Free medical services will be made available through the wellness center, including free vaccinations, and check ups.
After School Programs- The After school program will be to reach out to students staying in the transitional housing as well as students within a square mile radius of the property. Their mission is to help children see their value, encourage them to dream and make goals for their lives. Hands on learning activities will reinforce common core standards they are learning in school. Homework help will be provided. There will also be plenty of fun activities offered like games, crafts, outdoor sports, and a computer lab.
Originally a barn, and later converted into a cafeteria, The current kitchen on the property is in need of a little love, and the Valley Dream Center are seeking grants to have it remodeled and to enlarge its capacity. Nonetheless, plans are to have cooking classes and training there. They also hope to host neighborhood dinners where people from University Avenue can come purchase a low cost meal while providing work experience to the women in training.
Both the auditorium and chapel have church tenants who use the building on the weekend. When the buildings are not in use by the churches, they will be used for training’s. Gangland Redemption plans to hold training’s for other churches and ministries who seek to understand gang activity and how to reach those affected by gangs through the adopt-a-block program. The buildings will also be available to the community to lease for events.
Gangland Redemption is considering having Friday night Open Gym nights for the community. The hope is to provide youth with a safe place to hang out as an alternative to being on the streets.
The beautiful 100+ year old house has been converted to office space. Valley Dream Center plans to offer low-rent office space for other nonprofits who want to work together with them.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Valley Dream Center, visit their website by clicking here.