A Pleasant Valley Christmas

by Rick Beck

May All Your Christmases Be Bright!

May Each of your New Years Be Better Than the last!

My Christmas card for you.

Peace & Love,

Rick Beck

Setting: Mama's Kitchen, North Charleston, South Carolina.

"Babies, come talk to Mama," Mama said.

"Hi, Mama! Got any chocolate chip cookies?"

"I do, Brenda-Sue. If you sit down for a minute, I'll send you away with a bag full of chocolate chip cookies."

"OK," Brenda-Sue said, sitting next to Mama as opposed to sitting across from her.

Mama stretched her beefy arm over Brenda-Sue's small shoulders. Benda-Sue leaned against the substantial woman.

"How are you, child. Mama doesn't see you that often."

"Oh, I'm OK, Mama. I don't like coming out here alone and, well... some of the girls won't come to this side of town."

"It's a ways to come more than once a day," Mama said.

"Yes, ma'am. When I get hungry, I tell them, 'I'm going to Mama's no matter how far it is and I do."

"And where are the rest of my babies. Haven't seen anyone but you today and Mama has an important message for all her children," Mama said.

"I can spread the word if you want. I'll be back in town once I leave here."

"Mama had that exact thing in mind. For your trouble, you'll get a bag with chocolate chip cookies."

"Did the Tin Man bring them?" Brenda-Sue asked.

"He did," Mama said. "And The Baker baked them."

"He's cute," Brenda-Sue said. "The Tin Man I mean."

"I guess he is for white boy," Mama said.

Brenda-Sue laughed.

"He brought cherry and apple strudel today. Chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, and wonderful strawberry cake. I suggest you get a piece of cake before you leave and you can save your chocolate chip cookies for later."

"Strawberry?" the girl asked with her eyes twinkling.

"Yes indeed."

"Could I have a piece with a glass of milk, Mama?"

"Peggy Anne, one strawberry cake, extra large, and a glass of milk for my baby," Mama said in her loud waitress voice.

"I love the strawberry cake," the girl said.

"And chocolate chip cookies," Mama said.

"I do," she said. "What is the message you have for your babies?" Brenda-Sue asked.

"On Christmas Eve Mama is taking her babies to a Christmas party. It will be a feast and there will be presents for everyone," Mama said. "So if you don't have another engagement, I'd suggest you tell my babies they don't want to miss it."

"Where's the party?" Jon asked, leaning next to Brenda-Sue.

"Fifteen minutes out of town in Pleasant Valley. They've invited me and my babies to a Christmas celebration. I understand it will be special, and it's only for my babies."

"I've been there," Jon said. "Too many adults. I used to hang with some boys who went there to live. Maybe a year ago."

"Yes, they did and those adults take very good care of them, but they must go to school, work in Pleasant Valley, and they must learn some of what all those adults know," Mama said.

"Bummer. I've been told what to do by adults for as far back as I can remember. No future in it. They're usually mean and want something from you. Adults are a bummer," Jon said.

"I'm hurt. You think I'm a bummer?" Mama asked.

"No, I didn't mean you. You're Mama. You're OK," he said.

"I'm happy to hear that. You'll find that the adults at Pleasant Valley are fair and they only want children on the street to have an easier time of it. They decided to give you a Christmas party, and I mean with all the trimmings. Everyone will get presents. Santa Claus knows where Pleasant Valley is."

"Mama, I'll take your word for it," Jon said. "You've never given me a bum steer. You want I should spread the word? How do we get there? That's five or six miles out of town."

"Mana has a bus. I can carry fifty of you and if there are more, we have a second bus. How many babies can you tell about the party?"

"Fifty easy," Jon said. "I don't know how many. Some guys will have plans. You know, they've got to work. I'll tell them what you said, but it better be a great party or they blame me for certain," Jon said.

Peggy Anne came up with two big pieces of strawberry cake and two glasses of milk, sitting one down in front of Brenda-Sue and she set the other one at the place facing Mama and the girl.

"Who's that for?" Jon asked.

"It's for you, cutie pie. You know a girl can't resist that handsome face of yours. It's for being a nice boy," Peggy Anne said.

"Uh huh," Jon said, sliding into the seat and picking up the cake in one of his mits, taking several bites before letting go of it. "Oh, man. That's special."

"I can depend on both of you to spread the word?" Mama asked. "Say yes, Jon, and Mama will have Peggy Anne wrap a piece of cake for you to take with."

"Sure," Jon said. "What time."

He devoured the remainder of the cake.

"I'll leave here at four on Christmas Eve."

"Cool," Jon said.

He drained the glass of milk.

"I'll tell my peeps," Brenda-Sue said. "The girls might not want to come. A lot have places to go over Christmas. They'll be inside somewhere. Won't want to give that up."


"Hi, Mama," the kids said as they climbed aboard the bus.

With thirty six kids, Mama turned north on Jackson Highway. She turned East on St. James, passing a dozen shops or more and the old brick apartments before parking in front of PV-1.

The buzz of voices filling the bus during the trip stopped. The Christmas lights and decorations made PV-1 look inviting.

A handmade sign had been placed over the main entrance.

"Welcome To Pleasant Valley."

The sign got everyone's attention. The silence grew.

The street kids were rarely welcome anywhere. Their entire existence was directed by the desire to avoid come in contact with the police, social services, or truant officers, who would take them into custody and lock them up with more wily and meaner juvenile delinquents.

Not living at home or going to school made street kids delinquent. It didn't matter why they were on the street or if their parents were the cause. It didn't matter if you ran away, were thrown away, or if your home wasn't safe, you were seen as guilty, and no one liked seeing kids on the street.

What to do about it was a bigger question.


No one on the bus didn't consider the many hazards they faced, including being tricked into custody. Learning not to trust anyone means you don't trust anyone, except other kids and people who never told you what to do or what to like.

Mama was the only reason her babies got on the bus. She'd treated them square and she fed them and talked to them if they wanted to talk. Mama treated them like she cared about them. No one knew of any kid being picked up at Mama's Kitchen. There was a good reason for that. They'd need to go through Mama to get to one of her babies and the kids knew it.

In spite of what they'd learned about adults, Mama's babies got off the bus to stand in front of the main entrance of PV-1.

If the outside of PV-1 was decorated to a fare-thee-well, the inside did the outside one better. Every surface was lighted, covered in garland and icicles, or wrapped in red ribbon. It made it impossible not to feel the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas lights and decorations at Christmas were not new to them, but no one decorated with them in mind before.

"It's pretty," Brenda-Sue said to Mama.

She stood inside the front door with her arm around Mama.

"Is this really for us, Mama?" Brenda-Sue asked.

"Yes it is, sweetheart. It's for you," Mama said, "Babies, I want you to have fun. The people of Pleasant Valley have made their Christmas celebration about you. Christmas is about giving and this is one gift they have for you. Enjoy yourselves. Mama will be inside with you. You're safe here."

"We didn't get them anything," a young boy said.

"Oh, you've given them the best gift of all. You've come to share Christmas with them," Mama said.

"I'm Audrey," a woman dressed in red and white said, leading them into PV-1. "Welcome to Pleasant Valley."

Another woman said, "I'm Annabel and if you need anything or have any questions, just ask one of the women dressed in red and white. We'll be close by all evening. There will be plenty of food, gifts, and Christmas joy to go around."

"It's too early to eat," George said from the back of the gathering.

"Hush," Jon said. "Let's go with the flow, dude."

"Yes, but there are snacks and drinks in the restaurant. Each of you is going to pick a sponsor, once we go inside. We have a clothing store and you'll go there as your first stop and pick out clothes you like to wear to the party. Your sponsors, someone you pick out from the residents you meet, will take you to have a bath or a shower, whatever you like in their homes. After you clean up, you'll put on your new clothes. We want you to feel comfortable. We want you to feel like you belong here with us, because you are our children and the gift we wanted most for Christmas. Any questions?"

The kids were too busy processing the welcome to have questions.

They were guided to tables in the center of the main restaurant. Quiet at first, the kids began talking to each other. Each table was decorated and there were plates of cookies, fudge, and candy. They were brought sodas and more snacks. The restaurant was decorated for Christmas. It was colorful.

A man and woman in brightly colored clothes sat with each table of guests and boys they called, 'PV boys,' came and went from each table. These boys weren't much older than the guests, and they kept asking if there was anything they wanted, and they smiled like they had a secret they weren't going to tell.

This wasn't the usual reception they got. The more invisible they were the better most adults liked it.

After the snacks were eaten, the adults at a table suggested they go to the clothing shop for new clothes. One table at a time went to get clothes they liked. Then they went to clean up before returning to the restaurant.

This separated the kids from each other but they were so well treated that they hardly noticed. In short order and in new outfits, the guests were back at their table. They bragged about the new clothes and how good they felt.

All thoughts about where they came from and would returned to were lost in the swell treatment they were receiving.

Few of them remembered the last time they had fun.

It was easy to feel welcome there. Everyone was nice.


Mama didn't require anything at her kitchen but for you to bring an appetite. After eating your fill, she sent you away with a bag of food that might last through the next day. Mama's Kitchen wasn't on the beaten path but most kids beat a path to her door when they were at their hungriest.

Moving from table to table, Mama bragged about each of her babies looking special. She made sure her babies were having fun. She smiled and enjoyed seeing her happy kids.


The buzz about what was for dinner started at about seven.

There were Christmas carols and a variety of instruments playing Christmas songs everyone recognized. The musicians and singers moved around the restaurant to give everyone a close up sample of the entertainment. It was hard not to sing along.

The big man on campus, and one of the founders of Pleasant Valley, Dury Lane, found time to talk to Mama and she took him to each table to introduce the visiting children to him. Dury described how Pleasant Valley found a way ti integrate some homeless boys into Pleasant Valley the previous year.

Keith, the man in charge in the kitchen, also came to talk to Mama and describe what the kids could have for dinner. Even after cookies, cakes, soda, and other snacks earlier in the visit, Keith had every mouth watering by the time he described what was for dinner.

It wasn't your grandma's traditional Christmas menu, but grandma didn't usually feed two hundred people, having something for every taste.

There were questions galore and some of them were answered by the boys who lived in Pleasant Valley. Some questions were for the sponsors, who also ate with the kids. The residents sat at tables on the sides and behind where the visitors were seated. The visitors were the center of attention.

The residents of Pleasant Valley felt like they had Christmas every day. This Christmas was for the kids who had no place to go for the holidays. It fit the overall purpose of Pleasant Valley. It started with the idea of offering a better place to live for people over fifty and the disabled, especially disabled veterans.

Grumpy disagreeable people didn't make it in Pleasant Valley. Everyone was too nice for their taste. No one had to ask them to get lost. They got lost to find a more disagreeable place where they could fuss and not be met with a smile.

The food was as wonderful as food could be. Keith, master in the kitchen, had dozens of helpers who were expert at what they did. Keith's kitchen had become one of the most popular places for people could work.

Tonight there was turkey with all the trimmings. There was ham, steak, hamburgers, and roast beef. Once a kid placed his order, it went to the kitchen, and what came out was as scrumptious to look at as it was to eat.

Santa Claus came, ringing bells and handing out stocking that were packed with candy, nuts, and electronic gear.

Santa Claus looked a lot like Dury Lane with a pillow stuffed down his oversize red pants. His beard didn't quite fit and his 'Ho, ho, ho,' needed work, but he brought Christmas cheer for each of the guests.

Each stocking contained a phone and things the kids needed but could rarely afford to buy.


With the red pants hanging loosely, minus the pillow, and held up by a pair of red suspenders, a beardless Dury Lane, stood on the stage in front of the restaurant.

"Merry Christmas," he said into the microphone.

A roar of 'Merry Christmas' came back to him.

"That was fun for me. I hope it was fun for you too. I was expecting to introduce you to my contractor and another partner who literally developed Pleasant Valley, but he's working on another gift you'll hear about later," Dury said.

"Keith, come on up here," Dury said, and Keith moved up on the stage to appreciative applause. "Keith is a partner in the development of Pleasant Valley and he's in charge of the food."

Once again the applause came from all areas of the restaurant. Keith waved.

"I hope you enjoyed the food. I won't introduce the more than twenty people who made it happen. It was my gift to you. Merry Christmas to all of you and that's all I have to say for right now, but I'll have more to say later."

"Thanks, Keith. I needed you to talk a little bit longer. I'm still hoping Gary makes it here to describe what he's been doing," Dury said. "There is a phone in each stocking. I'll tell you something about that phone."

There were cheers and applause.

"You've been given a phone along with other electronics. I'm told it's the kind of thing kids like. In the phone is my phone number. That's very important and part of why you are here. Should you find yourself in trouble or if you need help of any kind, the first number on your phone is mine. Call me first. Say, 'Call Dury first!"

"Call Dury first," came back the reply.

"That's the reason for the phone. I don't want you to think ill of me, but I'm a lawyer," Dury said.

Everyone laughed.

"If you need help, I can call people I know and more importantly, people who know me. I can find out the nature of your trouble and possibly get some cooperation in getting you out of trouble. That's why you have my number."

There were cheers from boys who were often worried about being taken into custody.

"While Gary is AWOL, he has sent his right hand man to talk to you. Listen carefully to what he tells you. It is important. David, come up and bail me out. Tell the kids your story."

A tall lean neatly dressed boy came onto the stage. He stopped beside Dury to shake his hand, they hugged, and the boy turned to face the audience.

"I'm David. A little over a year ago I came to Pleasant Valley. Before that I was living on the street. I heard about Pleasant Valley, and even though there were no kids allowed, I decided to come out here and see it for myself. Some other boys came with me," David said.

"I figured we'd get fed here. There are woods beyond the lake and that's where we lived. I'd talked to a guy who delivered stuff here. He told me, 'Every time I stop there, they feed me. I didn't ask to be fed. I was told to go to the kitchen and eat.'"

"I decided to come out here. At first there was a lot of discussion about us being kids. Except for disabled folks, you had to be fifty to get in here. There were no kids," David said.

"Keith was the first of the founders to notice us, when I went to the backdoor of the kitchen, Keith had me come inside and he fixed me up with food. He didn't know anything about us then. He didn't question me. He fed me," David said.

"One day while they were fixing me up with food, one of the veterans called to get a meal delivered to his unit. With Keith being short handed, I told him I'd deliver it. He thought it over before giving me directions for where to take the meal. That's how it started," David said.

"When Keith got wind of how many of us there were, he came to the woods to meet us. I was bringing a half dozen boys to deliver meals to the vets each day. Keith wanted to know why we took so long. I told him the vets liked to talk and we talked."

"There are a couple dozen disabled veterans. Not all of them need an aid or companion, but each of the boys of Pleasant Valley has his own vet now," David said.

"By the time we were delivering meals all over PV, Keith was being asked who the teenage boys were. There were discussions about what to do with us. Keith said, 'We need to include them in Pleasant Valley, that's what we need to do.'"

"PV was for people over 50 and the disabled. We were teenagers. Keith thought the rules needed to be changed to include us, since we were already working in PV. Because everyone gets a say in how things are done, it was taken to the residents. The vets spoke up for us. It was decided Pleasant Valley was about providing a safe pleasant place to live. In that spirit the residents decided to change the rules to take us in."

"And we became Pleasant Valley boys," David said.

There was applause.

"David, Gary isn't here yet. Tell them how you became Gary's right hand man. You're doing great," Dury said.

"How I first met Gary," David said. "During those early days before we were allowed to stay, I would go to watch the construction Gary was doing. Some of the original PV buildings were still being built," David said.

"I like watching things being built. One day a piece of machinery breaks down in front of where I sat. I knew Gary was in charge. Everyone took a shot at fixing it and when Gary climbed out shaking his head, I asked for a shot at it. It took me a few minutes, but by fiddling with the gear shifter, it slipped into gear and began moving again. I turned off the key and got out of the machine saying, "It should be OK now."

"Everyone was surprised but me. Gary asked who I was. I said I was David. Someone came up with another problem and I slipped away. A few days later he was telling Keith about me and Keith told him, 'David takes meals to our vets.' It's how I ended up with both Keith and Gary as my sponsors."

"Do you want me to go on, Dury? There isn't much more," David asked Dury. "I'm hogging the stage."

"You've got the stage. Gary's cleaning up. He'll be here in a few minutes. You're doing fine. Tell them about our vets."

"OK. I tried to work for Keith in the kitchen. I liked delivering meals. The kitchen was too hot and confining. When I delivered meals, I made sure the vet didn't need anything and we ended up talking. Keith asked what took me so long and I told him. He realized that the hardest thing to do was getting the younger vets to get involved with residents. When the PV boys delivered meals, being closer to the vets age, they talked to us. That's when Keith got the idea to assign one boy to each vet. That way we got to know each other and we were encouraged to stay and talk if that's what they wanted. We began taking care of our veteran's needs."

"My vet is Jimmie Porter. Wave Jimmy," David said. "He's also my best friend. I have a phone and if he needs me, he calls me. No matter where I am, they know the vet comes first and I go to help Jim," David said.

"I got my GED here and I still take classes."

There were groans from the visitors.

"Don't groan. You need to be educated if you want to work. If you want to eat you've got to work. There are some really good teachers here. Most of us have our GED now and we work other jobs besides delivering meals to the vets. I started training with Gary, so I'll always be able to get a construction job but I might go to college later. I haven't made up my mind yet. I've run out of things to say. Oh, I was emancipated last year."

There was applause as David left the stage.

Dury moved back to center stage.

"He's one smart cookie too," Dury said. "He can do anything he sets his mind to do. I'm happy to report that the boys who came with David are doing well. Boys, please stand up so our guests can see you," Dury said.

"I don't like to keep you waiting but Gary's on the way. It'll be a couple more minutes."


After Silent Night and two choruses of Jingle Bells, Gary finally came in from the kitchen and moved to the microphone.

"Hello, I want you to know, he's a slave driver," Gary said, pointing a turkey leg at Dury. "I haven't eaten since lunch."

Gary held his hands out wide, still waving the turkey leg.

The restaurant was filled with laughter.

"Keith, take this. Keep it warm. I'm not done with it yet."

The audience was tickled by Gary's delivery.

"I've got to say, working today to get this job done has been one of the highlights since we created Pleasant Valley," Gary said. "Dury, Keith, come up here. Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, the three musketeers."

"You didn't say mouseketeers, did you?" Keith asked. "Pleasant Valley was Dury's brain child. He included me because he wanted the best food possible, and Gary built PV. I can't imagine being teamed with two better men, and it's time for Gary to tell you why he's kept us waiting all this time."

"David, come up here. You're at the bottom of this. If you hadn't come to Pleasant Valley, we wouldn't be here tonight."

David walked back onto the stage and Gary hugged him.

"He looks young," Gary said. "But he'll be one hell of a builder one day," Gary said.

There was applause.

"Ladies and gentlemen, and especially our guests, I have an announcement to make. Keith," Gary said. "You and David started this. You tell them how we got here."

Keith moved to the microphone.

"There was a quandary after I began to feed the boys who were living in our woods over a year ago. There was great discussion about letting them live in our woods. Now, I was homeless when I was a kid. A woman with a restaurant in North Carolina, took me in. Much of the food you ate tonight came by way of her kitchen, where she taught me to cook," Keith said.

There was applause.

"I've always been a cook and I was once a chef, but I've never enjoyed cooking as much as I do here at Pleasant Valley. As the three of us, the three musketeers, discussed the future of boys who live here now, I said, 'You two need to get a grip.' These boys don't need permission to live in our woods. These boys need a home. We're in a position to give it to them.' Pleasant Valley is an idea. We wanted to create a better way for people to live together, cooperating and assisting people with their needs. 'These boys have needs,' I told them," Keith said.

"The light went on. Once the residents heard the boys' story, almost everyone agreed we needed to find a way to house, educate, and offer our boys training in things that would help them to find a profession and have a shot at a good life."

Keith, Gary, and Dury applauded the residents of Pleasant Valley as the kids watched and listened.

Gary stepped to the microphone.

"Keith's a ham," Gary said.

The people laughed. They knew who the ham was.

"I'm not too good at this. I'll cut it short. I've been putting the finishing touches on a two story forty unit building east of the lake. It was touch and go all day, but it's ready. Each unit is twenty by twenty feet with a walk-in closet. They have a bed, a dresser, a desk, and a desk chair, along with a full bath. As we speak, those forty beds are being made. I think Dury needs to give you the rest of the story," Gary said.

"We've been waiting to hear these units are ready for occupancy. Why is this important to you? Everyone but our guests know the answer. It's important to you because we are inviting you to stay with us at Pleasant Valley. The new units are for you to live in. Each of you will have his own unit."

There was silence as boys and girls looked at each other.

"David, you do the honors," Dury said. "You know more about what it's like coming here after living on the street."

David stood in front of the microphone looking out at the homeless kids who expected to return to the street.

"What I want to say, and I say this on behalf of Pleasant Valley, come join us. You won't be sorry. Not all of you will be able to trust us right away. I was on the street at fifteen. It didn't take long for me to realize that I only had one thing of value. I'm gay, so it wasn't as big a deal for me as it was for the straight guys. We all got into cars and did what we needed to do to survive the street. I met some nice men who liked me and they treated me well, but I was in a situation I had no way to escape, until I heard about Pleasant Valley and I came here," David said. "I am not sorry I did. I have a good life here."

David left the stage.

The restaurant was silent.

"Sometimes we don't know where we stand with our youth, but I think David just told us. You have the phone and if you go back with Mama tonight, the number is still good. You can consider me your lawyer. If you need help, day or night, call me. If you go back to the street and then decide you want to give us a chance, call the number. We'll come to get you," Dury said.

"Keith had a few thoughts he wanted to share with you. Like David, he's had the unique experience of coming from where you find your selves. There is a vital piece of information that needs to be addressed to complete the picture of Pleasant Valley."

Keith walked to the microphone.

He looked down at a face near the stage.

"I'm married. Carl is my significant other. Wave Carl," Keith said. "I lived here in what is called the old apartments before I met Dury. I told him about this spot about the time the idea of Pleasant Valley was taking hold," Keith said.

"The idea was to create a better way and a better place for people to live. Pleasant Valley is the result."

"Forty percent of homeless children are LGBTQ and some started out on the street, after being rejected by their parents. The holidays, even Christmas, is one of the most difficult times for folks from less than supportive backgrounds," Keith said.

"I suppose forty percent of you are gay. Statistics say that forty percent of homeless children are gay. They leave home at a far greater rate than straight kids, but it doesn't matter if you are straight or gay or whatever, when you are homeless, you are barely surviving. We are offering you an option you didn't have before tonight. We want to help you finish growing up with the least amount of difficulty, if you'll let us. It's our way of saying, we approve of you and we hope you approve of us."

"Give me a break," an older boy said. "I've been on the street for two years and I spend half my time running from the cops. You know what happens to you when they catch you and lock you up? I'd rather be on the street than be waiting for some cop to drive down here are grab us. My parents couldn't take care of me and no one else gives a damn, unless we sit in front of their business or ask to use their bathroom. Then they howl."

"Excuse me," Dury said. "I have the answer to what you're asking about. What do I call you? I want to talk to you directly."

"I'm Craig," the boy said.

"Craig, at seventeen David was emancipated. I'm a lawyer. You come to live with us and I become your lawyer. Each of you was given a phone with my number. I'm your lawyer too. I can't begin to imagine what you kids have experienced to make it this far. We can't erase the harm done to you by being failed by your families and the society you live in. I can offer you a better shot at making something out of nothing from here on out. If you stay on the street until you're eighteen, your chances of having any kind of decent life will be severely limited If you are locked up as a delinquent child. If you stay in custody until eighteen, your chances of succeeding in are limited," Dury said. "If you live here, you'll be in school and work, earning your way. We go into court and petition to emancipate you. Children whose parents that fail them have been punished enough. They don't deserve to be institutionalized. They deserve a shot at making it on their own. It's not like surviving on the streets isn't an indication of your toughness."

"After the Pleasant Valley boys came here, I wanted to protect them. To assist them in growing up. To give them the tools they would need to succeed in life. I know the system and the people who run it," Dury said. "I knew how to talk to them."

"If you have a safe place to live, go to school, and if you are working to learn a trade or preparing for college, who is going to incarcerate you? A system with a limited budget can't adequately care for children. Incarcerated youth have no better chance for success than incarcerated adults. Incarceration keeps kids off the street and out of sight. It does little more than that."

"What is emancipate," a boy asked.

"Who am I talking to?" Dury asked.

"I'm just Quick," the boy said.

"I bet you are, and smart too. That's a good question."

"You've heard of the Emancipation Proclamation."

"Yeah, Lincoln freed the slaves and made them full citizens," Quick said.

"That's it. You are free and capable of making decisions for yourself. No one can tell you what to do."

"Not even my girlfriend?" Quick asked.

"That's between you and her. Your girlfriend or boy friend can try to tell you what to do, but it's up to you if you let them."

"It would be like me being an adult? Emancipation, I mean?"

"You got it," Dury said. "You are smart."

"OK, if there aren't any more questions," Gary said. "I've been dying to invite our guests to see the units we've just finished getting ready. Every unit has a view of the lake and the gardens. It isn't much right now, but in the spring it's beautiful. I'll let our boys lead the way and they can go with you so the adults can sit around and drink coffee. Then we'll ask you to stay with us and let us help you finish growing up if you want."

There was another round of applause as the Pleasant Valley boys took the visitors through the kitchen and out the back door.

The smell of pumpkin, sweet potato, mincemeat, pecan, and apple pie abounded. The kids would be sure to come back for a piece of pie or two.

Merry Christmas for 2018 and every year!

Peace & Love

Rick

PS For more on Pleasant Valley read:

East on St. James

A Rick Beck Story


The holidays can be hard on the lost and lonely among us. The people of Pleasant Valley have reached out to do what they can to salvage young lives left to fend for them selves.

There are between one million and one and a half million homeless kids on our streets at any given time. An accurate count isn't easy. Some kids sleep on couches at at a friend's house or in a spare room. They aren't counted as homeless, even though they are.

Forty percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ. They are thrown away by inadequate parents or leave intolerable situations.

That makes them delinquent children in our culture.

These children are at risk. Whether living on the street or in institutions for delinquent youth, their chance of succeeding in life is reduced each day they stay there.

The worse our culture makes their lives, the less likely they'll survive growing up.

If you can help a homeless youth, I guarantee it will make your day. Simply a few bucks for a burger is help. A smile when a kid interrupts your day with a plea for help works Don't contribute to the abuse these kids suffer.

Don't think it's easy being a beggar on our mean streets.

IF YOU ARE THINKING OF HARMING YOURSELF

Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours everyday

FOR LGBTQ YOUTH WHO NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE

CALL THE TREVOR PROJECT

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