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Season of Wishes: D&J youth need labor, new van, money donations

Julia NagyThe Natchez Democrat — Some children from the D&J Youth Group pose in front of their newly renovated computer center Saturday afternoon on Claiborne Street.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story was published incorrect information. The van donated to the group was donated by the Natchez Housing Authority. We regret the original error and are happy to set the record straight.

NATCHEZ — Thirteen-year-old DeMarcus Price doesn’t hesitate to state his loyalties to a group in the Woodlawn area.

But that group is more than just friends he can hang out with on afternoons or weekends. It’s the D&J Youth Group, the brainchild of Joe and Diane Good.

“It’s always interesting,” Price said. “We go on lots of trips, and I think it is the best group in town.”

D&J was started a few years ago as an effort to expose children in Natchez to travel and culture they might not otherwise get a chance to see. Joe Good said the group takes small regional day trips to events in Baton Rouge, Jackson or Monroe, but has in the past traveled to San Antonio, Atlanta, Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Washington, D.C., and even the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

The most recent trip the group took was to see the ballet.

“A lot of these kids, if it wasn’t for D&J, they would not be exposed to the cultural things that we do,” said Valeria Johnson, who volunteers with the group. “We are exposing them to history and helping form them as educated people.”

And as part of the mission to form the children who participate in the group, D&J has recently expanded its focus to include an after-school computer and tutoring center.

That expansion began because area children were going to the Goods’ house to use their Internet access after school. After the Historic Natchez Foundation donated a couple of old shotgun houses on Claiborne Street to the group, the Goods decided it was the perfect location to open a computer and tutoring center.

Joe admitted that when he first saw the condition of the houses he wasn’t quite sure it was going to work. The buildings were structurally sound, but the years had taken their toll on the floors and exteriors.

Now, one of the houses has been restored and electrical work is expected to start this week.

After that, Joe said, the group already has several new computers that will be moved in as soon as a security system can be installed.

Then, construction and repairs will begin on the second structure.

“My wife, she told me she had a vision for these houses, and she made a believer out of me,” Joe said.

When the project is complete, the center will be open daily to allow the children to use its resources to help with their schoolwork.

Even before the computer center is installed, Diane said the new D&J house has become popular with the children in the group.

“The children will come up here on Saturday and just want to hang out at the house,” she said.

The next need the group will have to tackle is for a second van. While the Natchez Housing Authority donated one van to D&J last year, the group has grown and they need the ability to transport more children, Joe said.

“On the last trip we took, I hate it but we weren’t able to take everybody because we don’t all fit in the van,” he said.

D&J operates on donations, Joe said, and anyone who wants to help out with labor or money should contact the Goods at 601-442-4169 or 601-597-2815.

And while money is always appreciated, Diane said those who give don’t have to feel limited to cash or check.

“We’re not going to turn down anything,” she said.

The computer resource center will have an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Jan. 21.