“It is a safe center, it is a place we are trying to create hope in these young kids, to get them away from gangs,” said Kershaw.
The investment in Madison House is expected to create opportunities for mentoring young kids and giving them job skills that will carry them beyond picking fruit in the orchards.
“We don’t want them to escape from Yakima, we would very much like them to stay,” Kershaw. “We want to show the youngsters the good jobs in the fruit industry.”
Kershaw called the youth community center a “journey of hope” for kids. “We’re showing young people there is hope and to take advantage of the opportunities.”
Money and programs alone aren’t enough, of course.
Kevin Deyette, program director for Madison House, said his kids need relationships with adults, somebody to come along and encourage them, to hold them accountable.
Of course, the many faceted problems associated with farm labor can begin to be solved with a youth community center. Can Madison House give workers and their families a path to legalization?
The industry and workers must rely, sad to say, on the wisdom of elected officials to craft a workable immigration policy.
But every produce town - and every produce grower - should consider how that investing in the future of their workers and their families can also help their own future.
Madison House is such a place.