"The best thing is learning how fast kids catch on if they are exposed to positve things."
Chef Ralph Brown, Sr., 58, of Charlottesville, VA, works with the Region One Representative for the Community Builders Network of Virginia, which helps young people connect with their local government.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Chef Ralph: I am the Region One Representative for the Community Builders Network of Virginia (the Network). The Network began a Youth Adult Partnership statewide in Virginia in 2004 to get community service boards, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and coalitions, who work with youth to add them to their boards. We have been very successful across the state.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Chef Ralph: Region One/Community Builders Network of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Chef Ralph: We have four meetings per year. In January on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we take fifty to one hundred youth members to the Captiol to visit with their senators and delegates. We are funded partially by the governor's Office of Substance Abuse, so once a year we co-sponsor the governor's Kid-Safe Conference in November. In August we have a four day annual conference in downtown Richmond, with workshops, seminars, games, and lots of fun for 250 delegates from the five regions of the state. For every adult officer there is a youth officer (age thirteen or older), for all of our board meetings. The youth learn how to plan the conferences and events we have, and enjoy the results.
What inspired you to get involved?
Chef Ralph: Freddie Simons, Prevention Director for the Hampton-Newport News Community Service Board, started the idea with a CBN chapter in his area. I was a volunteer with the Charlottesville CSB, and that led to the founding meeting in August 2004.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Chef Ralph: I am on the board of the local Youth Development Network which is a coalition of about 95 local organizations that have pledged together to serve youth needs in our community in a seamless manner. If we get a request for youth services that we are not able to provide, we call a hotline that has been set up to find an answer for that young person. From that committee on substance abuse prevention, I volunteered for the Network.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Chef Ralph: The best thing is learning how fast kids catch on if they are exposed to positve things. It is also good to see how much they want to take charge and prove themselves.
What is/was the hardest part?
Chef Ralph: Getting people to know how important it is to get young people involved in something else besides sports. Getting people to understand that if young people visit the state Capitol, and meet the governor, they just might decide they want to be one.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Chef Ralph: I didn't start this early enough to educate enough adults and children. The process takes time and we are racing against the clock. There are so many other things to get kid's attention that they don't know they can have fun advocating for themselves.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Chef Ralph: Start now, don't wait. Visit Region 1/Community Builders Network of Virginia.
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