Pubdate: Fri, 11 Jul 2003
Source: Plainview Daily Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Plainview Daily Herald
Author: Kevin Lewis
Bookmark: (Youth)


Growing up on the streets of Las Vegas, Vince Riojas wouldn't have
thought twice about someone offering to sell him drugs in the middle
of the street in the middle of the day.

But Riojas was amazed when it happened recently in

A real estate agent, Riojas had sold a house in the Austin Heights
neighborhood and was picking up the front yard sign one morning.

"I stopped behind a truck at a stop sign and the guy rolled his window
down and stuck out some money and a guy came walking up and sold to
him," Riojas recalls. "Right there on Brazier Street at 10 in the 

What happened next was even more startling to Riojas.

When he pulled up to the stop sign, "they (drug dealers) came to my
window and wanted to sell crack (cocaine) to me.

"I just told them to get out of here."

The event affected Riojas so deeply that he and a dozen or so other
concerned men - most of them part of the recently-formed Plainview
Promise Keepers - wanted to do something to fight back.

"I want that to change," he said.

What the Promise Keepers, with the help of a host of community
businesses, are doing is sponsoring Plainview Unity Day this Saturday.
The event will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in a vacant lot next to
Emmanuel Church of God in Christ at Walter Griffin and Brazier
streets, just north of 16th Street.

"We want to target the crack house in that area," Riojas

Plainview Unity Day, he said, is a time for the community - especially
youth - to come together for free games, music and food.

"Scripture says how good it is when we can all unite," Riojas said,
paraphrasing Psalms 133:1 which reads: "How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity."

Although the day is centered around youth, adults are also invited.
And, he said, it's not just for the black community.

"We all live in the same community. We don't want anyone to have to
be scared to go into any part of town."

A number of basketball contests, tug-of-war, potato sack races and
other fun events are planned. Numerous prizes - including 40
basketballs, four bikes and two CD players, donated by Wal-Mart stores
here and in Lubbock and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center - will be
given away.

"We want to do whatever we can to help these kids," Riojas

Also to be given away are 300 Bibles, courtesy of the Rev. Randy
Santiago of First Assembly of God Church.

"We want to plant that in them," Riojas said.

The "Stomp" dance team from Happy Union Baptist Church will perform at

Riojas said the day will also feature "six or seven guest speakers"
including Riley Foster, Gabriel Gonzales, Richard Miller, David Mata,
Danny Glenn and Ram Sanchez. All will offer testimonies of hope and
some, like Riojas, will talk about how they've turned their lives
around from abusing drugs and alcohol.

"I had a rough life," said Riojas, one of eight kids in his family.
"My mom was handicapped, and my dad dropped us off when I was 3 to
live with my grandmother. We were dirt poor. We lived on food stamps
and welfare."

The state took Riojas away from his mom when he was 9, and "I was a
ward of the state of Nevada until I was 18."

In and out of foster homes and boys homes, Riojas basically "grew up
on the streets of Vegas.

"My family and I had our run-ins with getting in trouble, drugs and
drinking," Riojas said. "But we've all overcome that."

Now 27, Riojas began turning his life around six years ago when he
married his wife Stephanie (the couple is expecting their first child
in October) and started going to church.

"I got saved three years ago. Since then I've been doing everything
I can for the Lord."

That includes Plainview Unity Day on Saturday when Riojas wants to
communicate a message of hope for the troubled youth of this city.

"I want to do something so these kids don't have to go through what
I did," he said. "I understand where they're coming from because I
was there.

Riojas believes life is full of choices - good and

"You don't have to tell me your life is so bad. Your life is what
you make it. Each and every one of us has a choice to make. That makes
us the people that we are now.

"They don't have to make bad choices; they don't have to turn to
drugs; they don't have to sell crack on the corner.

"You can change the way your life is headed."

Riojas hopes Plainview Unity Day will help some start making better

"We want to get them motivated into doing good. Drugs aren't the
only way."

Plainview Unity Day is the second function sponsored by the Plainview
Promise Keepers, who grew out of the worldwide Christian men's
organization of the same name.

The group's first function was finding sponsors for 30 kids who may
not otherwise had a chance to attend a basketball camp this week at
Wayland Baptist University.

"These kids don't have a chance to go to those things. Some are
fatherless, another's dad is in jail," Riojas said. "It's been
really neat for them. That was really awesome."

A third event - a Christian rock concert to be held near Kidsville -
is already in the planning stages.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin