During September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the Caribbean—especially the island of St. Thomas. The storms lasted for nearly two weeks each and LDS Charities has helped with the recovery. Julio Acosta, the area welfare manager for the Church's Caribbean Area and an Area Seventy from the Dominican Republic, and Ty Johnson, director of emergency response at LDS Charities, visited the island of St. Thomas in February 2018 to meet with partners who have helped respond to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
One stop was My Brother’s Workshop, a nonprofit charitable organization providing at-risk and high-risk young people on the island with mentoring, counseling, paid job training, education and job placement. LDS Charities has helped provide wood, as well as other materials and equipment. While the organization does not primarily respond to emergencies, they stepped up to help its community when they saw the great need.
Scott Bradley is a retired manufacturing engineer who moved to St. Thomas 12 years ago to found My Brother’s Workshop. He currently serves as its program director. The nonprofit has expanded from just a woodworking shop on St. Thomas to now include a bakery and café, an online school, an online radio station and a second woodshop on neighboring St. Croix.
St. Thomas ecclesiastical leader Steve Richards and his wife, Kim Richards, join Julio Acosta, the area welfare manager for the Church’s Caribbean Area and an Area Seventy from the Dominican Republic, as they talk with Scott Bradley, the founder of My Brother's Workshop on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.
In 10 years, the organization has helped some 1,500 young people, said Bradley, adding that the U.S. Virgin Islands ranks high globally in youth crime and violence statistics. “We had one kid—his history caught up to him,” he recalled of a former program participant. “He was gunned down and robbed—and we made the casket for him because his family couldn’t afford it.”
Since the hurricanes, the bakery and café has served tens of thousands of meals. Meanwhile, the woodshop has halted the manufacturing of benches, tables, custom furniture and handcrafted gifts —in part because it was without power until electricity was finally restored in February — with work crews sent out across the island to repair roofs and clean up and remove debris.
Jonathan Tuel, site manager for My Brother's Workshop on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, gives information about the work they do as he talks with Steve and Kim Richards on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.
Declining offers for paying jobs to do recovery work, My Brother’s Workshop rather has focused on providing services and using donated materials to help seniors and low- or no-income households. “We can’t turn our backs on them,” Bradley said.
This service-focus was impressive to Johnson as he reviewed the donations of wood and other materials and equipment to My Brother’s Workshop. “What I love is that you’re not only helping the kids,” he told Bradley, “but that they’re in turn helping the less advantaged. It’s a win-win.”
*Summarized from an article by Scott Taylor with Church News