VOL. 111 | NO. 205 | Friday, October 31, 1997
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
A passion for helping youth
Youth Villages administrator Patrick
Lawler has a heart for the young
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
When Patrick Lawler was an 18-year-old, he went to work for Tall Trees Youth Guidance School. For a year, he worked with troubled youth as a residential counselor.
"I had a passion early on for working with kids," Lawler said.
It was not until after he had taken the position at Tall Trees that Lawler learned his father had spent six years in an orphanage during the 1930s.
He found working with the young people so rewarding that a year and a half later, he went to work for Juvenile Court. From there, he moved to intake, where he worked for two more years. For another year and a half, Lawler worked as a probation counselor.
While working at Juvenile Court, Lawler attended the University of Memphis and earned a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice in 1977.
Then, in 1979, Judge Kenneth Turner sent Lawler to Dogwood Village, because two others had tried and failed as leader of the facility.
In 1986, Dogwood Village merged with Boys Town, and Lawler became administrator of the newly formed nonprofit organization, Youth Villages.
Lawler said when he first started with the organization, it employed nine and worked with 40 young people. He said in the early years, much of his work was direct counseling with the youngsters, in both one-on-one and group settings.
Today, Youth Villages, which recently merged with Family Link, has about 550 employees and serves about 1,200 youth annually, he said.
"Much of my work is looking at new and better ways to help kids and their families."
Its a job Lawler has done so well that he recently received the Briggs Community Service Award. Named in memory of Welcome Wagon founder Thomas W. Briggs, the annual award salutes an individual whose initiative, creativity, professionalism and commitment have contributed to the success of a nonprofit agency. The award carries with it a $10,000 donation to the honorees charity.
Lawler said he was surprised when he learned about the award, which will be presented to him at a private dinner on Nov. 3 at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.
Lawler has been with Youth Villages for 18 years and earned a masters degree in counseling in 1981.
"I get excited to see thousands of childrens success over the years," Lawler said.
He said two of his most influential role models were Criminal Court clerk Bill Key, is a former executive director of Tall Trees, and Turner.
He said the two men set an example for him about the enormity of the responsibility of caring for other peoples children. Lawler said he always has been amazed by the level of commitment the two men demonstrated.
Lawler said Youth Villages has three basic programs: residential, foster parenting and a family-based program called Intercept.
Lawler has demonstrated his commitment to the programs by hosting two foster children in his own home. One boy, Jimmy, lived with the Lawlers for a year, and Nathan stayed with them for six months.
He said he is particularly committed to expanding the services of Youth Villages, because now, more than ever, families are struggling.
"I would like to see us expand our services more rapidly than we have in the past," Lawler said.
name: Patrick Lawler
date of birth: July 24, 1955
place of birth: Alton, Ill., but considers Memphis home
because he moved here at age 3.
education: Bishop Byrne High School, 1978
University of Memphis, 1977
B.A., criminal justice
University of Memphis, 1981
marital status: married, 19 years, to wife Jan
children: Brooke, 16, and Brad, 17