[Photo: The Children’s Developmental Center board and leadership staff and family of Wendell Young met for a gathering last week in his honor. They plan to plant a tree and place the stone marker on the grounds of the Center in his memory.]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • On Wendell Young’s 90th birthday, he asked that instead of gifts for himself, his friends and family donate money to the Children’s Developmental Center.
They ended up raising about $7,000 for the Center, a cause near and dear to Young’s heart, his family said.
Young’s family joined the Center’s board of directors and members of the Raeford Kiwanis Club last week in honoring the memory of the World War II veteran, who died earlier this year at the age of 99.
Young became involved in the Center in the 1990s. He served as chairman of the board, and continued contributing to the Center through his 90s, Children’s Developmental Center board chairwoman Linda Revels said.
“Mr. Young was one of the founding members of the Children’s Developmental Center in 1996. That wasn’t yesterday, folks,” Revels said. Thanks to the shared vision and work of its supporters, the Center is still thriving today, she said.
The service was held at the Raeford Civic Center, after stormy weather forced a change of venue. Originally the gathering was scheduled to take place at the grounds of the center, where the board plans to plant a tree and place the stone marker.
“Whenever we do get the opportunity to plant the tree at the center, this will be down at the bottom of the tree to let everybody know what that tree is for,” Revels said, displaying the carved marker.
Former Center director Jodi Willis recalled her time working with Young at the Center. Anytime there was an issue, “I could call him and he could make it better. He was so dedicated,” she said. “He was always there, we had fundraisers helping. He was such a special person. He just made the Children’s Center home.”
Young’s sons Sam and Tim Young spoke to their father’s years of service. Even in his 90s he was still working to make the Center better, Sam Young said.
“I think Jodi told me he was up there (at the Center) at 95, digging in the backyard,” he said.
Tim Young recalled their father’s persistent concern for helping raise funds for the Center’s programs for children.
“He was always concerned about the Children’s Center, he was always concerned about where he was going to find the next dollar for the Children’s Center…he had a passion for that beyond anything I’ve ever seen. I think it’s molded Sam and myself into different people than we might have been over the years to know that he loved that place so much, and that we can also reach out to different organizations to help those in need,” he said.
Revels said Young’s contributions, and those of all the Center’s supporters go to help special children.
“This event is a small way of saying thank you to Mr. Young for the vision that he and others had for a great learning facility for families with children, and especially – I want you think about this, if you’ve got children or grandchildren, think about the last part of this statement that I’m about to say – and especially children with special needs,” Revels said. “If you’ve ever been to the Center and seen some of those children, babies almost, on walkers, babies almost in wheelchairs, if you’ve ever been to the Center, anything you do for the Center, even if you just pray for the Center, anything you do for the Center is greatly, greatly appreciated.”
Young contributed to the community in many other ways, too. He served as a county agent for decades, was a dedicated member of his church and was active in the Raeford Kiwanis Club. The Kiwanis Club held a luncheon in his honor last month.
Local and state elected officials including Commissioner James Leach, Raeford Mayor John K. McNeill and Rep. Garland Pierce attended and spoke of Young’s dedication and service. McNeill noted that an eight-page, hand-written biography of Young is included in the military room at the Raeford-Hoke Museum.