Volunteer Group Spotlight - Bethany Jones of West Side Church of Christ

June 11, 2014

"This was my fifth summer at Fortress, but I don't claim to know and understand everything about these kids and the hardships of living in poverty. Every year, I learn something new, something that hits me really hard and makes me see reality. That and the bonds that I have created with the kids are what has kept me coming back to Fort Worth one week every year.

Last year, I was Semierria's buddy, and I had a blast. That girl is as spunky as all get out and an absolute joy to be around. I teared up on the last day last year when I said to her, "I love you," and she replied as I hugged her, "I love you, too." I was so touched. Naturally, after that I wanted to hang out with her again this summer; she is one reason I came back.Sure enough, she greeted me on the first day-- "Hi, Bethany!" And I gave her a big hug. When I told her I had missed her, she said, "I told you I would remember you!" And I was overjoyed.

However, being Semierria's buddy meant braving the adolescent angst of the junior high group (6th-8th grade). I am not going to lie--that age group is tough to work with. BUT, those kids need just as much love and appreciation as the others, they just value their space a bit more at times. I got to see my other buddy, Lilly, and another girl in the group, Daisy, hanging out with little Tapanga from another group. That same morning, I actually got to see Lilly give little T-pang the bracelet she had made the day before. I was so happy to see these young ladies taking care of this sweet little girl and giving her someone to look up to by letting her hang out with them when she wanted to.

Another girl in our group, Lazayviea, was actually my buddy the first time we came four years ago. She has grown into a beautiful young lady, and most of the time she's one of the more mature girls in her group. Also, she's freakin' hilarious. That girl cracks me up!

If the person reading this is trying to decide if they should invest him or herself in this program in some way, then let me answer that question: YES. These kids can teach you so much. You learn more about them, yourself, and the harsh reality of life at times. I'll admit, there are moments when they will tap dance on your last nerve and make you just want to give up, but DO NOT give up on them. That is why you are there--to prove to them that they are worth it, and that they shouldn't give up on themselves either. They need you to remind them of how precious they are. I love these kids so much, and I don't think they will ever understand the full impact they have had on me. I pray that Fortress will continue to improve their lives and make great leaders who can overcome anything. God, bless Fortress."

Bethany Jones, 18 years old