On Friday, My Brother’s Workshop held a “Thank You Reception” to celebrate the organization’s expansion, The Stephenson Family, and its new building, “The Stephenson Family Welcome Center,” on St. Thomas.
The non-profit has raised $1 million towards its new campus on Donoe Bypass behind Home Depot, thanks to the generosity of its supporters and sponsors, which will be matched by The Stephenson Family.
My Brother’s Workshop has worked with more than 1,300 youth in the USVI. The organization has been innovative in giving back to the community and making a difference. Starting with only four trainees, it has since grown to serve 100-150 annually and advocates for keeping youth on the right track through mentoring, mental health counseling, education, vocational training, job placement, and other services.
Emily Burton, the architect working on the project, shared her experience.
“The entire community came together. There were a lot of different trades that had to come together to make this happen. From finding the property and starting the design from the ground up, also taking into account the size of the building, the size of the property, and making everything fit according to what was needed,” said Burton.
“It took so many different people and their talents, professions, and creativity. The project changed a lot, but it kept improving. We have a wonderful contractor on board, and once we connected with him, the project strengthened, and I think that this is the best possible outcome,” said Burton. “I know that it is going to keep getting better. Right now, we’ve started mostly the site preparations, but when the building starts to come up, it is going to be really exciting to see it physically come together.”
The new building’s main campus, The Stephenson Family Welcome Center, will be 10,000 square feet on 3.8 acres. This campus will include culinary arts, catering services, customer service training, online schooling for high schoolers, anger management classes, offices, a welcome center, classrooms, and individual counseling. They also added parenting classes and childcare services, retail experience, and family counseling.
Furthermore, building two will include career and technical training programs, with training in construction, carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical, marine, CNC laser, CAD/CAM programming, machine shop, fiberglassing, and welding. New programs are being added, including automotive, heavy equipment, and appliances and technology.
Building three will be a community center and amphitheater, fielding sports, arts, and music events.
Jenny Hawkes, MBW executive director, reminisced about a time when one of their graduates came back to the island to visit. “She started her journey with us years ago. She worked her way up from a trainee to a junior trainer, and she led the team when they built the cafe downtown. She then graduated from us and went to the states to work installing custom garage doors. She was making $27 an hour. People always ask where our people go from here and how much they are making. She’s now in the states, making $30 an hour,” said Hawkes.
She continued, “This is why we are here. This facility, the one we are celebrating, which is building one, will be teaching vocational skills that lead to employment. Also, services with mental health counseling, mentoring, and education, providing hope, guidance, and purpose.”