Self-Development of People Purpose Group Awards Grant to Richmond Youth Group
After losing more than 30 years of his life to substance abuse and incarceration, Rudy Green wanted to prevent others from making similar mistakes.
Talking with teenagers in his community of Brookland Park in the Richmond’s Northside, Rudy learned that the youth wanted a safe place to meet and job opportunities.
Seventy percent of commercial properties in the neighborhood were vacant or blighted. None of the teenagers had transportation or parental support to help them connect to employment outside the community.
In 2013, Rudy challenged the young men and women to create their own economic opportunities. He formed the Brookland Park Young Leaders Project under which to organize their efforts.
Non-profit organization Embrace Richmond, which trains residents, organizations, and civic leaders in community development, helped Rudy get the program off the ground. They taught the teens how to survey their community to discover the hopes, dreams, and gifts of their neighbors. They also partnered with local organizations to create paid internships to give the youth marketable job skills.
From the information in the survey, the group formed community action teams to address resident-defined areas of concern: crime, community connectedness (social trust), opportunities for older youth and revitalization of the blighted commercial corridor.
The action teams include four block clubs, a monthly community clean up, a community garden, a senior support team, a food coop, an oral history project, and a music team.
Serving on the teams helps youth learn how to organize projects, facilitate meetings, and finesse communication skills.
The project has attracted other caring adults to mentor young people in the community in how to advance personally and professionally.
For example, resident Rob Gassie started Joe’s Bike Shop in 2017 to teach teens how to repair bicycles. The youth earn a small paycheck while gaining technical skills and professional experience in fixing donated bikes in the shop located in the basement of All Souls Presbyterian. The bikes are then sold at an affordable price to community members.
In February 2018, the Brookland Park Young Leaders Project received a grant from the Self-Development of People (SDOP) purpose group of Presbytery of the James. The funds will provide stipends for adult and youth leaders in the Historic Brookland Park area who are working together to benefit their community.
“We chose to support the Brookland Park Young Leaders Project with funding for two reasons,” explained Lamar Lockhart, moderator of the SDOP purpose group. “First, they are working with youths engaged in risky behavior and, second, their involvement with the community is creating economic growth and change.”
The SDOP purpose group allocates grants through the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering to groups that increase the empowerment of economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people. Past SDOP grant recipients include The Daily Planet (a homeless shelter), Friends and Associates (homeless support), and Elevated Imagination (an early intervention learning center).