Touching and providing assistance and services for at-risk youth is what REACH Council is all about.

“The organization was originally called REACH Midlothian Inc.,” said Janice Carey, executive director.

She noted that the murder of Midlothian undercover police officer George Raffield in 1988 brought a new awareness to the community about the seriousness of the drug and alcohol problems many youth were facing.

“My husband, Rex, Vera Wofford and I founded the organization in March 1988 and were incorporated by September 1988,” she said. “Our goal is to provide resources and information for people of Midlothian.”

She cites activities for youth including dances, lock-ins, drug treatment and coun-selors that visit the schools as part of the work of REACH Council. The city of Midlothian funded the hiring of a secretary and also provided office space and office equipment in the beginning.

“In 1991, we received the first grant from the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (now known as the Department of State Health Services),” she said. “The city still donates money to us as well as the school district and the Lions Club.”

The organization began to offer services countywide in  1994 and expanded its outreach into Navarro and Johnson counties.

“Today, we just work in Ellis and Johnson counties,” she said. “We are primarily in schools providing classroom education, small groups and teaching life skills to every seventh- and eighth-grader each year.

REACH Council also provides its services to the Disciplinary Alternative Educational Program and provides screening, assessments, small group education and counseling in Burleson, Joshua, Maypearl and Venus.

School administrators, law enforcement and city officials also provided support in helping get the organization off the ground.

“We have also been given free services from an attorney,” she said.

Carey said when she graduated from University of Texas at Arlington with her master’s degree in human services, the position with REACH came open.

Asked what she would do if she had a large monetary donation given to her organization, she was quick to answer.

“I would expand services into every school,” she said. “We would do what we could to fill the need for the entire population – and get parents involved.”

The organization has a director of finance, program director and three counselors to work throughout the school district.

“We provide crisis counseling, needs assessment, referrals, small group instruction and we reach out to kids with divorced parents,” she said. “Sometimes kids refer themselves to us and sometimes they are referred by school principals and counselors.”

The group teaches life skills at Walnut Grove and Frank Seale schools.

“We teach kids how to make friends, how to make healthy choices, goal setting and communication,” she said.

REACH has logged 15,000 unduplicated cases and Carey said it’s gratifying when she sees former clients out in the community who express gratitude for the assistance they received in turning their lives around.

“I had a young man in a local restaurant recently, who was waiting tables, to come up to me and say, ‘You’re that REACH lady,’” she said with a smile.

REACH Council is hosting a three-on-three basketball tournament fundraiser Saturday, Oct. 3, at Midlothian High School. The program is called “Reach for the Hoop.”

For more information, contact REACH Council at 972-723-1053.

Contact Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com or 469-517-1450.