By Tom Bedwell
November 2, 2012
From Client to Coach: Next Generation Kingdom House Volunteer Emerges from Family Support Services Program
After coming up through the Kingdom House support program as a child, Al Wysinger has emerged as a successful mentor and coach in our Youth Services Program
Kingdom House Opening Minds and Offering Experiences
At 26 years of age, and nearing completion of an MBA in Finance, Al Wysinger looks back on his days in Kingdom House’s Day Care and Youth Services programs as a richly rewarding experience that taught him valuable lessons about what life had to offer.
For a five year old with a mom working as a McDonald’s manager, Kingdom House became an island of support that extended what his family including aunts and grandparents could offer in the way of meeting basic needs.
But almost as importantly, Kingdom House provided role models that differed from the celebrity athlete images and local drug dealer realities shaping the perspective of he and his neighborhood friends.
And the role models backed up their words with constant presence and vital opportunities to experience rare activities.
“The message I was taught was that I could do anything I put my mind to, but when volunteers actually took me to a Rams football game, or arranged for my first flight in an airplane, the message changed from something we talked about to something I actually experienced,” said Wysinger.
A Safe Place in a Challenging Neighborhood
After years of hard work, determination and sacrifice, Wysinger’s mother is now a supervisor for St. Louis University hospital. But the majority of Al’s youth saw his mother keeping a highly demanding schedule managing a local McDonalds.
Her work life presented gaps that Kingdom House, along with his grandmother and aunts, filled in with a constant stream of activities. While Wysinger knows his father, he did not experience his father’s presence in his life as a youth.
“Complaining never helps anything, and growing up the economic situation was the same for just about everyone I knew, but Kingdom House took care of me in ways that I was only able to understand after I gained some distance from the environment,” explained Wysinger.
At Christmas time, each year, Wysinger never doubted that he would receive at least one gift, because Kingdom House provided this relative luxury when his family struggled to do so. Donated Christmas items provided a safety net for excited youth not to experience disappointment during the important holiday season.
Another example came when Wysinger was a teenager and had some shoes stolen while swimming at municipal pool. Kingdom House volunteers sourced shoes for the young man and enabled him to avoid walking home barefoot and having to face the coming day with no shoes.
The Opportunity to Experience A Bigger World and Learn to Give Back
When Wysinger realized that even though he was at or below poverty line, he was experiencing activities and support that others at his school were not, he began to understand that the world was much greater than the confines of his local neighborhood.
“One time Kingdom House enabled me to meet the Governor of Missouri at an event he attended, which was a tremendous opportunity and really opened my eyes,” said Wysinger.
His mind began to change as he realized he could dream bigger, and while coaching was always in the back of his head, a mentor at Kingdom House called on Wysinger to step up soon after he graduated from Central Missouri State with a degree in Accounting.
Antwine Rook, who is the director of youth services at Kingdom House, indicated in a manner that left Wysinger little choice, that it was time to begin giving back, as a coach.
Wysinger’s protests that his new job at Monsanto was demanding and left him with little time fell on deaf ears as Rook smiled and told Wysinger he believed in him and thought he’d do fine as a new coach.
The culture of Kingdom House never let Wysinger believe “no” was an acceptable answer, and looking back he believes that was a key lesson imparted to him through the volunteers who mentored his progress.
As a coach, Wysinger took a last place baseball team to the national championships of the Khoury league, where they won first place in their age group. It’s an amazing success story, but something Wysinger takes in stride amid the larger lessons he tries to teach his players.
“It’s a big transformation, but the kids learned that hard work pays off, and now that they’re able to believe in themselves they are finding it possible to hope for more than they could have imagined just a year ago,” said Wysinger.
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