Delmann Heights Applauds Youth Volunteer
By Dianne Anderson
Somehow, 15-year-old Michael Bolton seems well beyond his years. He’s pulling good grades, finds time to volunteer in the community, and already has worked out his 10-year goals.
Bolton, a longtime volunteer at the Delmann Heights Community Center, wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, a Vietnam veteran who served in transportation and cargo, but not with a gun.
“I want to save lives, I don’t want to take them,” said Bolton, a sophomore in the Cadet Corps at Cajon High School.
Bolton understands what the front line means for men of color, but that’s not stopping him from pursuing a career as a combat medic that will lead to a free prime education after he’s served his time.
“I plan on the military, and after the three years, I’ll have them send me to college,” he said.
When other kids his age break loose on school break or hold down in the house for days playing video games, Bolton can be found volunteering a few times that week at Delmann Heights Center.
On holidays, he volunteers in distributing free dinners that staff members cook for the community. At Easter, he helped with the egg hunt.
He is active with the after-school programs. At first, he was just fulfilling a school commitment for community service credits, but he wanted to continue volunteering. Besides a few female volunteers, he and only one other young man regularly shows up to help staff.
He feels at least part of the problem is that technology may be making his generation lazy.
“The technical age is coming in. They’d rather be on their games, even though we have that stuff at the center. They don’t come and do it there, they do it at their house,” he said.
Back when his own dad was little, he said his grandfather didn’t want him hanging out at the center because it wasn’t safe. These days, he said nothing negative happens there, thanks to the late community activist John Griffin.
“Before Mr. Griffin passed, he made sure the park was clean, and since he’s passed, we make sure it’s clean. When graffiti happens, we get rid of it,” he said. “We feed every day.”
Local kids get snacks, and dinner free at 4:00 p.m. Kids and youth can access many activities, including arts and crafts, a computer room and sports. Last week, Bolton was there when the kids made slime and paintings. They also have Play Station and X-boxes, ping pong, pool tables, board games. If that’s not enough, there are plenty of books to read.
“There are lots of games for the kids, basketball court, we play 21 with all the kids, tug of war and we’ll go and eat,” he said.
His grandfather, Carelize Carrington, a long-time volunteer, said he is proud of his grandson’s work ethic, focus and maturity.
“He’s been in church all of his life, he sings, he ushers, everybody says the Lord is working with him, he is gifted,” he said. “I’ve had him since he was six months, I don’t even call him my grandson, I call him my son.”
Carrington is a past president of the Delmann Heights Community Cluster Association, formerly filled by the late John Griffin. That seat continues to be empty since Griffin passed in 2016.
Delmann Heights Center Manager Matt Douglas said the center still runs the Head Start program and has 15-25 youth at the center daily for after school help, and free dinner or to just hang out. In the summer, participation doubles with free snacks and lunch.
He commended Bolton and his grandfather for the help they both give over the years to support the community.
For the summer, the center hosts T-Ball and other citywide events. They also have limited tickets set aside for exciting field trips, such as Knott’s Soak City Water Park, with first dibs for regular participants.
He said the center always welcomes extra help to get resources out to the community.
“Mr. C volunteers for our food distribution program, we give out 120 bags of food [once a month]. We get five senior volunteers to help out with that,” he said. “We’re always looking to expand our partnerships, and get the community back involved into the center.”
For more information, call Delmann Heights Community Center at (909) 880-1362