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Jane McGlory is the founder of...

Jane McGlory is the founder of the Pacoima Community Youth Culture Center. A family tragedy inspired her to work to improve the odds for young people growing up in her community. McGlory, 55, and her husband, Albert, live in Pacoima.

I had four sons. My very oldest son went into the service at the age of 18. When he went in, he wasn’t smoking regular cigarettes. When he came home three years later at the age of 21, he was addicted to heroin.

I was so excited he was home. I was going to have all my sons home for Thanksgiving. I was busy cooking Thanksgiving night. He had gone back to his old job at UCLA. When he didn’t come home I thought, “Well, maybe he’ll call later.” It got to be 1 o’clock, Thanksgiving Day, so I told the children, “We haven’t heard from Bill, but we’ll just go on and eat.” Then the phone rang, and it was his supervisor calling me, telling me that Bill had just been found dead on the job. When the autopsy came back, he had died from an overdose of heroin.

The hurt I felt from that, I can’t explain it to you. But it’s a deep hurt from within. That was one of the hardest things I had had to do in life. You just pray and hope no other parent has to ever go through this. So I dedicated the rest of my life to help fight drugs in our young people. I worked with young people, one-on-one, telling them to stay away from drugs and get their education, and if you know anybody dealing with drugs, stay away from them.

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Six months later I was at another funeral, of a young man Bill’s age, who just got into drugs here at home. Then every six months I was back down at the mortuary viewing another young person that had expired from overdosing from drugs. It was getting to me. I had to do something that would involve more people than the few that I was in contact with. It was such a heavy burden on my heart.

I know an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. These young people don’t have enough to do. There’s no recreation in this northeast part of the San Fernando Valley for our young people. There’s not a theater, there’s not a skating rink, there’s not a bowling alley. A lot of young people have gotten on drugs, just through curiosity, wondering what it’s like.

I was asleep one night, and I had a beautiful dream. I saw this beautiful choir, just full of lovely young people, singing. When I woke up, it was so real. I said, “That’s it; young people like music.” So I got busy and started the Community Gospel Choir.

I told a young man named Paul Myers what was on my heart and what I wanted to do. He made signs with the date we were going to start having this Gospel choir and put them up in all the different stores and recreation centers. There were 16 young people there, and we grew to about 85 young people, and it was beautiful. We started June 20, 1977.

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They have sung all over the state of California, and in fact, in 1980, they chartered a bus and they went all through the South. It was really an experience for the young people.

We started out with just a choir, and after the choir got started, the first month, we started the drama group. Young people like to do plays. It was something new for the community. We started getting bigger and bigger, so we incorporated as the Pacoima Community Youth Cultural Center. We wanted to help the youth have a better life, a longer life and a meaningful life.

We do our very best to help our young people in any way that we can help. We could do a lot more if we had more funds, but even when we don’t have funds, we’re out there helping. When we do receive funds, we stretch them and do as much as we can.

The bottom line is, if you’re living in this world and not reaching out to help somebody, it’s a wasted life--that’s my personal feeling. We don’t pass this way but one time, and as I pass through I don’t want my living to be in vain. I want to be able to help somebody as I pass this way.

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