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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Shoestring budget doesn’t dim dreams for Williamsburg youth program

Heidi McCue-Gomes has started the non-profit Dream, Inc. in Williamsburg to give a location for underprivileged youth to find support and self-expression through art. (WYDaily/Courtesy Heidi McCue-Gomes)
Heidi McCue-Gomes has started the non-profit Dream Inc. in Williamsburg to give underprivileged youth  place to find support and self-expression through art. (WYDaily/Courtesy Heidi McCue-Gomes)

When Heidi McCue-Gomes talks about her dream of opening a faith-based organization to provide art and community to youth in Williamsburg, she gets teary-eyed.

It’s not because her dream has been crushed, but because she is so determined to see her vision come to life.

“To start something as big as this might seem naive to someone else, but I just can’t stop,” McCue-Gomes said. “I don’t do things perfectly, I just do them. I have a vision and I’m emotionally attached to it.”

McCue-Gomes, executive director and founder of Dream Inc., has started the process to create a new nonprofit organization in Williamsburg aimed at creating friendships and personal growth through Christ and art, according to the organization’s mission statement.

The organization is just in the beginning stages of becoming a nonprofit, but Dream Inc. has been in McCue-Gomes’ mind for a long time, she said.

Fourteen years later

The idea for the organization first came 14 years ago in a Christian bookstore in Massachusetts.

McCue-Gomes has been in the arts since she was young. Her involvement in music and art are what helped her form a sense of identity and she wants to help underprivileged youth in the area do the same. (WYDaily/Courtesy Heidi McCue-Gomes)
McCue-Gomes has been in the arts since she was young. Her involvement in music and art are what helped her form a sense of identity and she wants to help underprivileged youth in the area do the same. (WYDaily/Courtesy Heidi McCue-Gomes)

“I walked into this turn-of-the-century home and it just hit me,” she said. “It was beautiful, with a quaint coffee shop downstairs, rooms for story time and teens, and a deck outside built around a tree with fairy lights around it. I was taken with the idea right away and knew I had to do something like it.”

But the years passed, and she set her idea aside. In just the last month, though, McCue-Gomes decided to revive into her dream. She created a Facebook page for the organization, and she has started to form its board by bringing in Hannah Thompson as treasurer.

Thompson’s biggest challenge for the organization’s budget is finding money to provide a physical location for Dream Inc. Having a physical space for the organization is an important aspect of McCue-Gomes’ vision, and one with which she and Thompson are struggling.

“We want to find somewhere that can make the most impact,” Thompson said. “We want to be close to family communities in underserved areas so there’s easy access to our directed population.”

Thompson and McCue-Gomes are still brainstorming ideas about where to find the money for the organization, which is expected to pay $40,000 to $60,000 a year just in rent. They plan to start with a monthly letter to reach out to other organizations with similar values.

In addition, Thompson is working on making the organization a 501C3 nonprofit, which would allow the public to make tax-deductible donations to Dream Inc.

Taking art to the streets

But that process can take a long time, she said, and McCue-Gomes wants to make an impact now.

“We’re taking the art to the streets,” she said. “I’m not going to let a lack of location or funding limit what I can do.”

Currently, McCue-Gomes is doing a lot of the work herself with help from her family and her organization's treasurer. She said that there needs to be a lot of volunteers from different backgrounds and skillsets to help the organization grow. (WYDaily/Courtesy Heidi McCue-Gomes)
Currently, McCue-Gomes is doing a lot of the work herself with help from her family and her organization’s treasurer. She said that there needs to be a lot of volunteers from different backgrounds and skill sets to help the organization grow. (WYDaily/Courtesy Heidi McCue-Gomes)

McCues-Gomes already has ideas for several events in the coming months, such as a “Trick-or-Trunk” in October and participating in the Williamsburg Christmas parade.

Her goal is to give underprivileged youth in the area a community where they can create art and explore forms of self-expression.

McCue-Gomes, who has been involved in the arts through dance and music for most of her life, believes such an outlet is necessary for a thriving youth community.

For Thompson, art is essential to personal growth.

“For a holistic living, art is so important,” Thompson said. “For someone to fully realize who they are, they have to have access to some sort of artistic expression. It’s all about sharing art through these relationships and personal development.”

While the organization’s values are from a faith-based standpoint, McCue-Gomes stresses the importance that Dream Inc. is not a religious organization.

“We’re not a church, we are just rooted in faith,” she said. “I just want there to be something for everybody, I don’t want anyone to be afraid to come out just because we’re a faith-based organization.”

McCue-Gomes has plans for a space with rooms for story time, a small coffee shop and maybe, in the future, a recording studio. But for right now, she’s determined just to gain greater traction and familiarity in the community.

“Some people don’t understand why I’m doing something so difficult, but this has been a dream of mine for 14 years. With every thought, with every daydream, it’s an investment. I’m emotionally invested in this.”

Update: The organization has set up a GoFundMe page where donations can be made.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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