Youthville, USA is a non-profit children's services company based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They provide foster care, vocational, artistic and cultural programs for children. The organization was founded in Memphis, Tennessee in 1981. They are not affiliated with the Methodist Youthville in Kansas.
The Youthville, USA Story
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Eva Mae Brooks had gotten used to being a light sleeper, so the gentle tapping at her door at 2 am didn’t startle her. As she made her way down the stairs she had a pretty good idea what to expect. It was just another cold dark night in Baltimore and the police were looking for her.
The two officers on the other side of the door were apologetic and polite, but they needed her help. They had with them a young boy, not more than ten, and Eva Mae knew all she needed to know about him from his tattered coat and his downward gaze. He was a child of the system and there was nowhere else for him to go.
She already had a houseful. Judges, health workers and even the police officers knew that there was always a light on at the Brooks house, and any child would be welcomed and cared for until situations could be worked out or arrangements could be made. This was the 1950s and an organized social service system was still a long way off.
She wasn’t exactly sure where she would put him, but she knew that they would find a way, they always did. Her son Victor would gladly give up his bed for the rest of the night, he was at the age where it was still exciting to sleep on the couch or by the fireplace. In the morning they could put together another bed and set another place at the table.
What she didn’t know was that young Victor Brooks was at the top of the stairs peeking down at the new arrival. This was a regular occurrence in the Brooks home and he had gotten used to extra plates at the table and longer lines at the bathroom. At that moment they had four other foster kids in their home, though it would be many years before that word would be used. All Victor knew is that they were kids without homes, and that now this was their home; maybe for a few days, maybe for a few years. In fact growing up, he would get to know hundreds of these kids and to him they were all family.
But right now his mother was alone in the foyer with the little boy. Victor could tell that the little boy was scared and he watched as his mother knelt down in front of him so that they were face to face Looking up for the first time the little boy stared deep into Eva Mae’s gentle knowing eyes as she said to him, “You are home now.”
“You are home now.” Victor had heard the phrase hundreds of times over the years, it was his mother and father’s way of letting the kids know that somehow, someway, everything was going to be OK and that here you were going to be safe, and warm and there would be food and a soft bed. It was a way of letting them know that no matter what had happened to them in the past, here it was OK to laugh, and it was even more OK to cry. That you were a valuable person and people loved you and that this home was your home for a long as you needed.
All those years, all those children had a profound impact on young Victor and as he grew and went out in the world he always carried with him his parent’s commitment to those children. A deep mission to do his part to help them, and to be able to tell another generation of kids, “You are home now.”
Flash forward in time. It is the early 1980s and now a Reverend Victor Brooks is the pastor of one of the largest churches in Memphis, Tennessee but he is troubled. All around him he sees contradiction. Memphis is a boom town, a resurgence of wealth and opportunity but Rev. Brooks sees a large population being left further and further behind. He sees kids from broken homes, drugs, crime, and the first gang activity. He feels like the traditional institutions are still not equipped to deal with these problems. With the blessings of his wife Saundra and his own teenagers, Victor Jr., Julie and Chris he steps away from the pulpit and lays the groundwork for what would become known as Youthville, USA.
Providing homes for kids in need becomes a family calling and by the time Youthville expands to California with the help of celebrities like Clifton Davis and Muhammad Ali the entire family is working as counselors and mentors.
Concentrating their efforts on the toughest parts of South Central LA, Youthville, USA would reach hundreds of kids over the years and establish a reputation for working with the toughest cases, the “forgotten kids.” The kids that would be labeled as hopeless always had a place at Youthville, USA. No matter how tough the case, no matter how tough the kid, Victor or Saundra would look them in the eye and tell them, “You are home now.”
Move forward in time now to 2001. Victor and Saundra Brooks are living in North Carolina. Their own kids are grown and working on families and careers. Still passionate about making a difference they are retired and caring for five foster kids in their Louisburg home. Working within the system in North Carolina the Brooks’ see a need for the type of care that Youthville represents. With the blessings of the family, and the help of new friends here in North Carolina, Youthville, USA would re-open its doors January 6, 2003, in downtown Louisburg with a mission, simply put, to “Make the lives of Children Better!”
Now in 2006, this non-profit children’s services company provides foster care, cultural and artist experiences and vocational opportunities to kids right here in our community. Youthville, USA recruits, trains and licenses parents to provide therapeutic foster care. They provide community-based services, mentoring and transitional living assistance. Truly an organization rooted in the family, Victor and Saundra’s own children and grandchildren have returned to Youthville, USA with the same passion for improving the lives of children. Julie McKnight works tirelessly as President of Youthville, USA, Victor Brooks Jr. serves as director of Youthville, USA’s arts and music program Carolina’s Child and Chris Brooks is Vice President of Public Relations.
It doesn’t stop there though, Youthville, USA has always owed its success to those other wonderful people that dedicate their lives to making a difference; in this case a strong team of North Carolinians, John Newnam is Executive Director, Ken Barr and Monica Newkirk are Area Leaders, Tyronne Powell is mentor. Derek Ellington is Director of Operations.
The true measure of Youthville, USA is our foster parents. They are gifted, compassionate dedicated people who truly care about children and work hard to improve their lives. But as Clifton Davis, Youthville, USA’s National Spokesman and Chairman of the advisory board says, the only thing you need to help is the willingness to make a difference. He along with the Brooks family and the Youthville, USA staff encourages everyone to get involved either as a foster parent, a mentor or sponsor so that every child in need will be able to look into caring, understanding eyes and hear the words of Eva Mae Brooks, “You are home now!”
- President: Julie McKnight.
- National Spokesman & Chairman of the Advisory Board: Clifton Davis.
- Sr. Co-Founder & CEO: Rev. Victor Brooks.
- Co-Founder & Secretary: Saundra Brooks.