ST. THOMAS – The students of My Brother’s Workshop are already creating a lot – from benches to cupcakes – and soon they will be picking up their hammers again to help build something that will impact thousands of Virgin Island youth for years to come: a campus that the organization will call home.
“Our interns will be a part of this build and this building, so it’s going to be really cool,” My Brother’s Workshop board chairman Ty Troutman said Thursday. “In combination with contractors and suppliers here on the island, they will be engaging in construction.”
The complex that the interns will build has a capacity designed to serve over 1,000 students and will include all of the group’s programs.
Last week, Troutman signed a contract on behalf of the group to purchase approximately four acres of land just north of Home Depot for the campus. And on Thursday, the nonprofit that focuses on vocational training for “at-risk and high-risk youth” publicly announced the project and a million-dollar fundraising challenge.
The campus will go beyond the many youth development, mentoring, counseling, education and skills training programs that My Brother’s Workshop already offers.
“There will be a venue there that allows us to have outdoor concerts or other community events,” Troutman said of some of the new options the campus will offer the group. “We will have an event space there that will allow us to organize community events and organize those events there with the interns. “
“It gives us the opportunity to expand the lives we touch,” said Troutman, explaining that the organization is currently “limited, limited by the space we have”. … It limits the number of instructors we have and having mentors to work with the children.
The project is initiated by the Stephenson family, longtime residents and business owners of the territory and supporters of My Brother’s Workshop. The family pledged to match all cash and in-kind donations made to the MBW campus over the next year, up to $ 1 million.
“With generous donations like this from the Stephenson family, not only can we keep our doors open, but it validates MBW’s work as important and necessary, giving us additional inspiration to continue,” said Jenny Hawkes, Director executive of MBW. . “With donations, our private sector can get involved to help find solutions to problems and bring the community together. “
Timeline and new programs
The proposed main campus has a three- to four-year schedule and will be comprised of three structures totaling 30,000 square feet, potentially enabling more than 1,000 people per year to receive job training, mentorship, mental health counseling, a tutoring, an online high school diploma, job placement services, anger management and parenting classes and access to art, music and sports, the statement said.
Once construction begins, the project will be completed in several phases. Phase 1 will include the construction of the Stephenson Family Welcome Center – banquet space, café, industrial kitchen, classrooms and offices – which will house the culinary arts program, catering services, customer service training, school secondary online, anger management, office and reception center, classrooms and individual counseling. In addition, a new retail experience program, family counseling and parenting / childcare classes will be added in this space.
A decision has yet to be made on the future of the program’s current cafe and bakery on Wimmelshaft Gade in Charlotte Amalie, Troutman said.
“To date, $ 1 million has been raised by MBW’s sponsors, which is 25% of the phase 1 target,” the statement said on Thursday. “With the announcement of the $ 1 million Stephenson family twinning, MBW will be able to begin construction on its main campus.”
The following phases will include the construction of the new MBW workshop and the MBW community center.
Currently, My Brother’s Workshop occupies three locations in St. Thomas totaling approximately 15,000 square feet. The statement noted that by doubling the space, MBW will have the ability to become energy efficient with solar panels, provide more effective training, provide mental health resources including family and individual counseling, classrooms for high school diplomas and continuing education, youth development, special needs training, free community services, resilience and sustainability programs, and increased disaster response capacity.
Disaster response became a big part of the nonprofit group’s agenda after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The larger space will allow MBW to respond quickly and on a larger scale to disasters while keeping interns engaged in the program.
With the additional programs, My Brother’s Workshop will have the opportunity to work with older populations as part of workforce development for those in need of career change after life-changing events and will also be able to work with clients with special needs or disabilities to help them obtain employment, depending on the exit.
Since 2003, the Stephenson family have been active champions and supporters of Virgin Islands community initiatives and charities that include Cancer Support VI, Jazz in the Park, the Virgin Islands Community Foundation and their $ 2 million Help USVI Now. ! hurricane relief fund. Richard J. Stephenson is the founder and president of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.