Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Darla Shirley. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Darla thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. We’d love to have you retell us the story behind how you came up with the idea for your business, I think our audience would really enjoy hearing the backstory.
After entering an apartment at Shadow Creek Apartments in Oak Cliff, with just the intentions of saying hello to a mom and kids, I found that there were no beds and very little groceries in their apartment! How could this be?! I realized that day that everyone in need were not in the West Dallas projects, they could be right next door. I wanted to do something but what? I always heard that when you hear yourself say “somebody ought to do something”, check to see if your’e that somebody! I immediately rented an old dilapidated warehouse at Edgefield and Davis in Oak Cliff. That was in 1998. I named it Youth World and began inviting kids in the community to come in for refuge, encouragement, unconditional love and free meals. The first summer, over 100 kids showed up hungry but not only for a meal, but for someone to answer their silent questions screaming on the inside… “Do I belong in this world, who loves me, see me, what about my future? I couldn’t stop now. My heart was all in!
Darla, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
When beginning Youth World in 1998 that so many kids would be forever changed. Youth World impacts youth, inspires hope for their future, and relieves economic burdens. We believe every child has a God-given place in this world, so let’s help them find it. Let’s reach kids before they get on a crime stat or make life altering decisions. Let’s make sure the kids in our community don’t go to bed hungry. Let’s give them the courage and insight to become leaders. Let’s help struggling moms by relieving some of her burdens. God never expects us to do everything, but I can be a piece of the puzzle! I squeezed kids in like sardines in that old warehouse for as long as I could. Then in built and opened the facility at Wheatland & Polk in south Oak Cliff in 2013. I thought I built an elephant but we are again out of space and beginning an Expansion project. I’m sharing with you today what I feel is the secret to Youth World’s continual impact and growth: 1. Keep the main thing the main thing. 2. Never forget that we are dealing with and impacting all three parts to every child; spirit, soul & body. 3. Shine as much excellence as possible because that’s who we are and our youth deserve it.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
While building a new 25,000 sqft. facility, the economy tanked (2008). I lost promises from both donors and in-kind builders who were trying to keep their businesses afloat. I still had quite a ways to go on the building. I had a Builders Bank loan to pay and still needed almost a million dollars more. My father unexpectedly passed in 2010…I still hadn’t completed construction. I became my mother’s caregiver. She passed in 2011…and I still hadn’t completed construction. (If you had said to me right then that “it was about the journey”, I would have probably slapped you.) Being tired and discouraged, I heard God say “take another step forward and I will turn it into a mile”. And that’s just what happened! A family donated funds to pour the parking lot ($300,000). Companies from electrical to hvac began saying “yes” and we opened the new doors June 2013, just in time for our annual free summer camp and feeding program! Through this experience, I learned to pull up my big girl panties and stay faithful!
Can you open up about a time when you had a really close call with the business?
Have you heard, “You have not because you ask not”? I’ve had to learn to make the “ask”! This applies to whatever business you are in. It costs Youth World $100,000 to provide summer camp to 400 plus kids in our community. The value is priceless but money has to be spent. I remember a particular summer, four weeks into camp and I had a $70,000 deficit. I started with an internal belief I guess that its all up to me to pull off my life’s assignment and asking for help would be attempting to put my burdens on another. But I was so wrong. Others want to and even assigned to come along side you to solve problems, create a better world for everyone. I believe it’s the same for us all, whether your niche and calling is sales, arts, whatever…you are successful when you make the “ask”!
- Website: www.youthworld.org
- Instagram: darlaxshirley
- Facebook: Darla Shirley
- Other: firstname.lastname@example.org