The mission of Wesley Community Center Dayton is to meet the spiritual and basic needs of families of all ages offering assistance in education and training, employment and human assistance in transitioning families toward self-sufficiency.
- To respond to families and individuals experiencing personal crisis.
- To provide program opportunities for all age groups that will respond to actual needs and interests.
- To provide a meeting place for and work with local community groups that will respond to neighborhood concerns and gray service areas.
- To be a supportive agency to community endeavors and build bridges of understanding between people in the community and throughout the greater Dayton community.
It was the climax of the civil rights movement. All across America blacks were embracing new freedoms and new threats. The wheels of justice were grinding but very slowly. Many became restless and chose to fight rather than to wait. Rioting broke out in West Dayton and chaos ensued. After days of rioting, the community was left in shambles both physically and spiritually. Hope seemed lost then there was a spark from the smoldering flames of violence. This spark was the Wesley Community Center.
Wesley Center was birthed in response to the civil rights and civil unrest that was occurring to address the needs of the West Side community in the spirit of Christian Faith. Wesley Community Center, Inc. was established in 1966 as a mission unit of what was formerly known as the Miami Valley United Methodist Mission Society of Dayton and Districts, now known as the Miami Valley District of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. At a time when racial tension was high, Wesley became a safe-haven for families in crisis seeking stability, hope and a fresh start.
For over 50 years, the Center continued to grow and thrive. Even as a fire devastated its first site, the Wesley Center continued to be a place for families in need in its new home at 3730 Delphos Avenue right next to the IAMS Dog Company.
Robert A. Walker was appointed as Wesley’s new director in 1973 and remained until his retirement in 2011. During his tenure, Wesley Center continued to create and implement solutions for the issues surrounding the economic, social, and political situations which contributed to the violent actions of Dayton’s West Side. Programs were created in an effort to deal with race relations, to bridge the generation gap, address the dropout rate, find solutions for family disorganization, and search for unity. For the next 30 years the center provided programs for all ages.
Dr. Walker was succeeded by Harris Tay, who at the age of 26 was Wesley’s youngest director.
The Flames of Change
Between 2011 and 2014 Harris Tay narrowed the Center’s focus from serving the larger West Dayton population to Westwood and other neighborhoods in 45417. His strategy proved successful in helping Wesley Center to realign resources to meet the most pressing needs of our most vulnerable populations in these identified areas – seniors and youth.
In 2014, Mr. Tay accepted the position of new Director of Diversity Initiatives with the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. Yvette Kelly-Fields was appointed as Wesley’s new Executive Director. As a child, Yvette and her family utilized Wesley’s services. The seeds that were sown by Wesley took root and she became one of Wesley’s success stories. Like her predecessors before her, Yvette realized how important Wesley was to the community. It is viewed as a beacon of hope for a community that is currently in transition.
Working in partnership with the Board, volunteers, staff and stakeholders, Mrs. Kelly-Fields continues the work of the Wesley Community Center in addressing the emerging needs of families and seniors living in West Dayton. Over the next five years, the agency will increase programming focused on three key areas: workforce development, education and health and wellness.