COMMUNITY GEMS: Kids count on Dayton Dream Center volunteers

Paul and Dana Groves help with the kids’ activities at the nonprofit Dayton Dream Center

Some kids are withdrawn when they first visit the Dayton Dream Center, but after Dana Groves builds a relationship with them, they greet her with hugs.

“I’m excited to see them, too,” she said. “I miss them when they don’t come.”

Dana and her husband, Paul Groves, volunteer at the nonprofit center, located at 2720 E. 3rd St., several days each week. Among the efforts that they assist with are the after-school program and the center’s DC Diner that serves meals to visitors. They also lead men’s and women’s groups through Living Word Church, which has a campus at the center.

The Troy couple began volunteering at the center when it opened two years ago and mainly help with children’s activities. This season that includes the kids’ summer program and Vacation Bible School.

For many of the kids, the center is a safe space, as well as a place to make fun summer memories, said Dana, 49, who also is a preschool teacher at Dayton’s Kiser Elementary, only a couple of miles away.

“It’s just a privilege to be around these kids and pour into their lives and pray for them,” she said.

And while the prayers are important, God also has given them the opportunity to help these children in a concrete way, added Paul, 47, who owns Freeman Groves Insurance. He has seen the changes in kids who come from difficult backgrounds, who keep their heads down and don’t smile.

“Over time we’ve developed that relationship where we can joke back and forth and have a good time,” he said.

The Groveses are selfless and show the kids they work with that they can be counted on, said Amber Layton, the children’s director at the Dayton Dream Center and the children’s pastor at the center’s Living Word campus. Layton nominated the pair as Dayton Daily News Community Gems.

Many of the children who come to the center don’t have dependable adults in their lives, Layton said. It can take years for the children to trust and to know that an adult is there for them.

“Paul and Dana have not left,” Layton said.

The center also offers a myriad of other services, such as laundry, showers, a clothing room, hot meals and GED classes, said Layton, of Vandalia. Nothing is too big or too small for the Groveses to offer their help, and they “found their purpose in serving others,” Layton said.

“It’s very rare to have people who are literally all in,” she said.

While the Groveses said that the goal is for the center’s volunteers to come from within – from needing help to providing it for others – Dana said the center is a great place for others to get involved, too. As the number of kids who come to the center has increased, so too does the need for volunteers, she said.

Personal problems diminish and life gets put into perspective by volunteering at the Dayton Dream Center, she said.

“A way to heal is to help others,” Dana said.

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