By Sean Barron
Special to The Vindicator
Kevin Clark fondly recalls having visited a clothing store to look his best for a high-school dance, a move that also was a prelude for his own clothing line complete with a positive logo.
His idea to form a group dedicated to reaching out to others less fortunate soon spread through Chaney High School.
“We just want to give back to the community,” the 2007 Chaney graduate said, referring to the main reason he started Everybody Eats or EBE, which is made up of nine young men devoted to helping those in need and giving youngsters additional tools to make positive choices.
The other EBE members are Justin Bryant, Calien Scott, Jarvis Jones, Aaron Brown, Jerell Cathey, Justin Ballantyne, Larry Dawson and Norman Cornwell. All are Chaney grads except Cornwell, who graduated from Struthers High School.
Clark spoke during a recent Christmas charity gathering of EBE and members of a similar organization called City Kids Care Inc. hosted at West Side Bowling Alley Inc., 3320 Mahoning Ave.
Earlier this year, EBE and City Kids Care, which began in April 2011, formed a partnership to perform a variety of community-service efforts.
“Giving back to the community is the best feeling,” said Ballantyne, who works for InfoCision in Austintown and who brought his 6-month-old daughter, Jordynn, to the holiday event. “It’s not every day you see the community come together. It would be nice if it were like this all the time.”
Expressing similar sentiments was Brandon Perry of Fort Thomas, Ky., formerly of Youngstown, who’s director of City Kids Care.
“Every time I come back [to the Mahoning Valley], we try to do something,” said Perry, a 10-year Army veteran.
A sampling of what Perry’s 12-member organization and EBE have done includes donating about $400 worth of canned goods to the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, giving away more than 1,000 book bags filled with school supplies to children in need, providing free haircuts and raising money for those who suffer from cancer, he noted.
Also in the mix are Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter events, as well as motivational speakers for young people, he continued, adding that each event typically brings in 500 to 600 children and teens.
In 2007, Perry started a 15-month deployment to Iraq, where he helped provide supplies, food and water mainly to Iraqi children, he recalled.
Soon he drew parallels between their needs and those of many young people in the Valley, which served as an impetus for City Kids Care, he explained.
Also proud to be on board with Perry’s and Clark’s efforts is Chris Eskew, who assisted Perry with starting City Kids.
“It’s an unexplainable feeling to help kids and Youngstown; it’s a beautiful thing,” said Eskew, who attended the Christmas gathering with his girlfriend, Miquita Hosey, and daughters Christina, 2, and Jai, 10.
Youngstown has too few programs aimed at helping its youth, in part because many successful people fail to give back or leave the area, Eskew added.
The recent event at the bowling alley also provided youngsters with a safe environment and plenty of fun, observed Clark’s mother, Altina Clark.
The event featured a dance contest and a raffle in which two tricycles were given away.