5 Questions with Kurt Tarkington Executive Director Teen Challenge of Western NY

Kurt Tarkington
Executive Director
Teen Challenge of Western NY
Teen Challenge is hosting their annual fund raiser (free) )this September. Kurt talks about working with troubled youth and how they are seeing God set people free through the ministry.

1) Teen Challenge helps people escape the perils of drugs and alcohol every day, is there a story of God changing someone's life at TC that really sticks out to you of how God changed someone's life? There are quite a few stories but if I were to pick one that stands out, then it would have to be a young man named Robert.  He is in early 20’s and originally from the Washington DC area. Robert was dealing with a few issues and let me just say it showed on his face. He did finally tell me that he needed to get his GED and really wanted it, but didn’t think he could do it because it was too hard.  I told him that “all things are possible with God,” and reminded him that God will make a way, but that he had to do the work.  Robert buckled down and received his GED with great scores. God also restored joy to his life and I am happy to report he is doing great. 
2) How did you end up as director of TC, have you walked through similar trials yourself?  Let me answer that by taking the second part first. I came into Teen Challenge through Peoria, IL induction center, and like Robert I was miserable and angry.  As a kid and teenager, I was always picked on and bullied, and as a result I develop a way of being nasty to keep people at a great distance.  Things really got complicated with the drugs and alcohol and the crazy lifestyle that all brings.  So, after about 20 years of drug use, I came into Teen Challenge at the age of 42 mad and lonely.  In short order I had a new encounter with the Lord, and like Robert, my life changed dramatically.  I stayed on to work in the Reading Room as a tutor and eventually I was hired by Reading Area Community College to be the instructor assigned to Teen Challenge.  Then in July 2010, I was called into the office of the Executive Director, Dr. Batluck.  He looked at me and said, “We need you to go to Buffalo and serve as the director.” Within five days, I was on my way to Buffalo. 
3) What is a typical day like at TC? Is there a certain regiment you follow to help people escape drugs? We start our day with wake-up at 6:00am and in prayer by 6:30 for an hour.  Then we have breakfast and morning chores.  The guys attend morning classes daily and we have visiting Pastors each day who come in to bring the word.  After lunch the guys will do some type of work either around the house or at one of the assigned worksites.  The lifestyle of active addiction is selfish and self-serving, so our schedule is designed to break that mindset.
4) How long does one typically stay at TC and what are the next steps after they go through the program? Ours is a 14-month, two-phase program.  TCWNY is Induction, or phase one, in which a guy typically stays about 4 months.  Then we transfer him to the Mountain for the second phase which is 10 more months.  Remembering that we are totally residential the whole time. 
5) Tell us about the dinner planned this September, is it really a free dinner? We are so excited to announce that Rev. Don Wilkerson has graciously accepted our invitation as guest speaker for this years Fund Raising Banquet. Our theme is “Reviving the Stones” which comes from Nehemiah 4:2. And YES our banquet is really FREE, but we are asking everyone to call our office at (716) 855-0602 before September 15th to reserve seats. The fund raising dinner will be at Lucarelli’s Banquet Hall on Tuesday, September 15th at 6:00pm.