Rick McDevitt Youth Center
Rick McDevitt, right, on the basketball court at the youth center named after him, with from left, Cornelious Hawkins, 12, Michael Covington, 2, and Cameron Gibson, 3.

It’s uncommon for a man who’s still alive to have a building named after him, but Rick McDevitt isn’t ordinary.

He’s a man with a thick New York accent who lives in Buckhead. He volunteers at a youth center named after him in Peoplestown, a neighborhood within walking distance of Turner Field. One recent July day, he wore baggy cargo jeans and slipped into and out of the Rick McDevitt Youth Center through a hole cut out in the basketball court fence.

As Chairman of the Board of Community Care Inc., which runs the center, he’s spearheading a basketball tournament set for July 22 and 23. The charity drive is designed the keep the center open longer hours.

He said Buckhead businesses, including Aarons, Publix and The Cleaners on Peachtree, have lined up to sponsor it. People can sign up to play as a team, but they can also sponsor other teams, score tables and concessions. He said the fundraising goal is $10,000. People can learn more about the event by visiting www.hooping4youth.org.

“I think it’s important that people in Buckhead know that there are others in Buckhead that are giving people, and this is an opportunity for folks to help a successful program that’s turning kids’ lives around,” McDevitt said.

For more than 20 years, Rick has provided the children in the Peoplestown neighborhood a place to be year-round. The kids at the center call him “Rick” and say he’s a nice guy. He keeps up with their grades and recruits some of them as interns.

Jaquan Brown, 14, is one of McDevitt’s interns, and said he’s benefited from the center. “Other centers have closed and we still stand up,” Brown said.

McDevitt said living a meaningful life is important, and his life wouldn’t be very meaningful if he limited his concerns to his own backyard.

“We don’t just live in Buckhead,” McDevitt said. “You can’t live in an isolationist world as if the rest of the world doesn’t impact you.”

He said Buckhead residents should look at the center as “a good investment in the future.”

“If you want to do something about crime, you need to focus on vulnerable and disadvantaged kids,” he said, adding later, “One of the responsibilities of any kind of wealth is reaching out to others to make things better.”

Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr., a Buckhead resident who serves on the Community Care Inc. board helping to put on the tournament, said his court bailiff is sponsoring a team. “Rick is known as one of the premiere advocates for children,” Bedford said. “He’s the type of guy, when something happens in the juvenile system, he shows up.”

Columbus Ward, president of the Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, said McDevitt’s center is a hub for the community. It’s a place where people gather for meetings and it was an integral part of efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. Ward called McDevitt a “visionary.”

“[He’s] somebody else besides their parents to make sure their kids are treated fairly,” Ward said. “He’s always stood for that type of thing.”

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com