Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass – Nate Patterson
Founder of free after-school program wins “Silent Heroes” Award
DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - There are a number of people who do extraordinary things across the Wiregrass, and News 4 along with the Wiregrass Electric Cooperative want to highlight their achievements as our area’s “Silent Heroes.”
Nate Patterson mentors Dothan’s adolescents with Time Youth Dothan—many of his students walk just across the street to his after-school program after being released from nearby Dothan Preparatory Academy.
“The first thing they say when they come in is ‘what we eating? So we feed them, of course,” explains Patterson, who is both the founder and executive director of the non-profit.
Patterson says he came up with the idea after returning to the Dothan area in 2015 and recognizing a need.
“I’d see kids in the streets running around any time of the night. I’d ask them what they were doing in the street,” he says.
The center provides not only a place for kids to be themselves but resources not typically found at other after-school programs.
“A lot of our younger kids struggle with reading, we have 9th graders reading at a 2nd-grade level,” Patterson explains, “we have opportunities with barbers that spend time with the kids, they read a book while they get a haircut—the haircut is actually free if they read the book.”
Many of the youth at Time Dothan have also found a father figure in Patterson.
We have a lot of young people, especially a lot of young boys - the fathers aren’t really present in the home. It’s just important to have a male presence especially with young boys coming up, growing to be teenagers and young adults,” Patterson says, " we want to provide guidance and wisdom for these young people.”
While Patterson knows making a difference doesn’t happen overnight—he believes it’s worth the wait.
He says, “next thing you know, two years later you get one of the young students walking up to you and say ‘hey Uncle Nate, thank you for spending that time with me. I remember when you believed in me when no one else did.’ so you hear those stories and it’s just so fulfilling.”
However, Patterson says he can’t take all the credit.
“My wife is the backbone of what we do here,” he says, “she loves these kids so much. She’ll show them all kinds of different things that they may not get at home. I can’t do this without her, we’re a team and I know God purposefully did that for us to come together and do this together.”
Together, the duo provides everything from teen-to-work programs to Bible studies. They also constantly encourage journaling for their kids, since it’s oftentimes easier for them to write about what’s on their mind instead of speaking about it.
Their center is not very large, and a waitlist of 40+ children hope to get a coveted spot someday. However, Patterson says he’s relying on his Faith to help him provide for even larger groups in the future.
“We’re being patient,” he says, “I do believe we’ll have a bigger space one day, but right now we’re using what we got. We do believe something bigger is coming, we’re just remaining faithful and loving these kids.”
If you’re interested in donating to the center, you can visit timeyouthdothan.org.
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