In 1959, 14-year-old Jim Coston was, by his own account, “a very unhappy boy who spent a lot of time in juvenile court.” After a troubled childhood in Kinston, he was to Raleigh to live in the Methodist Orphanage and was lonely, angry, and directionless. Fifty-three years later, in 2012, Jim retired from a decades-long career in youth work in which he raised over $100 million dollars to help kids in need. How does he explain this radical change? Jim says his transformation started at the Hillsborough Street YMCA in Raleigh.
After meeting men like Don Cheek and Wyatt Taylor at the Y, Jim says, “I was happy for the first time since coming to Raleigh, and saw a future that was positive.” Mr. Taylor, who was the director of the Raleigh Y in the late 1960s, gave Jim a job and a place to live in the Y dormitory. In 1969, when Jim became the first person from the orphanage to graduate from college, the Y gave him a job as an assistant youth director in Raleigh. From there, he went on to work with the Boys and Girls Club in Michigan, Arizona, and California. He finished his career as the Chief Executive for that organization’s branch in Palm Springs, having helped thousands of children during his years of service.
Though he has retired from full-time youth work, Jim, who now lives in Oregon, has remembered the YMCA of the Triangle in his estate plans. “The Y touches lives in ways many will never know,” he says. “I hope my story will encourage someone to help serve more people with their contributions.”