GRAYSON CO, TX-This week has been designated as National Safe Place Week across the country and here in Texoma. It's celebrating a program that has given hundreds of thousands of youth nationwide a secure place to go for 30 years.
Since it started in 1983, the Safe Place Program has helped over 285,000 young people in crisis nationwide. North Texas Youth Connection said there are at least 60 safe places in Grayson county, including all fire stations, police departments and dozens of businesses and they hope to create more.
Denison Family Karate Center's, Alicea Perez vividly remembers when a young man walked into her business asking for her help.
"He had a look in his face and I said 'do you need help?' and he said 'yeah' so I talked to him about it for a minute and apparently things aren't going well at home. His mother had died three months earlier and dad, dad's not doing well either," she said.
Perez said the boy walked four miles barefoot to the center, then she called the North Texas Youth Connection to help him.
"To have a child come in and be upset and be in such a dire situation, I just wanted to cry and hug him," said Perez.
The Karate center is one of 63 "Safe Places" in Grayson county, and Perez said they have been taking part in the Safe Place Program for over 10 years.
"The sites are trained to call the local youth shelters and we'll come out and offer them a safe ride back to the emergency shelter, offer them a safe ride home or if they want someone to talk to."
NTYC's Nicole West said the Safe Place Program has given thousands of young people a place to go since they started participating in 1998.
"If a youth is in any type of crisis, whether it be they ran away from home, or kicked out of their home, if they're out riding with friends and that friend started drinking and they need a safe ride home, they can go to a safe place site," she said.
West said with this week designated as National Safe Place Week, she invites more organizations to take part in the program.
"Youth need someone to talk to. They need places to go to, to feel safe. They need to know there's someone there for them," she said.
"I hope more people will get involved in safe place, so I hope the community will continue to come together to support them," said Perez.
West also said the Safe Place signs will all be replaced next week with a new sign because the program had the same logo for 30 years.
If you're interested in designating your business as a "Safe Place," contact the North Texas Youth Connection at (903) 893-4717.