The Means Report’s annual “giving” shows kick off with a look at Project Impact with Steven Kendrick and Jeff Pooser.

Brad Means: Let’s talk about Project Impact. It is an effort that was conceived by the E3 Leadership Foundation. Steven Kendrick, you may know him by day as the Richmond County Tax Commissioner. He is the founder of the E3 Leadership Foundation and through that Project Impact. Jeff Pooser is the Executive Director. Stephen and Jeff, thank you for all you do for our community. Especially for our youth.

Jeff Pooser: Thank you for having us.

Steven Kendrick: Thank you very much.

Brad Means: So if I had to sum up Project Impact, I would say it’s a life skills and leadership development program. Your website helped me come up with that. How did you, Stephen we’ll start with you, notice there was a need for that among our young people in the Augusta area.

Steven Kendrick: Well, being involved with other programs in the community you recognize there’s not enough help for all the kids that are there. So being involved with youth leadership and other programs pointed out a need for high school males that potentially was being unmet, so I gathered together with our 13 other gentleman. We got together in room and decided we were gonna do something. We were gonna make an impact and so thus, the E3 Leadership Foundation created a program called Project Impact in order to affect these lives and provide leadership and life skills for this group of young men.

Brad Means: Let me stop you just for second. So youth leadership, for those of you who don’t know, is a phenomenal program for young high schoolers in our community to learn how the city works and to learn everything about it so that when they come back here hopefully one day, they’re very familiar with the goings-on in Augusta. Did you look on to that program if I’m hearing you correctly and say, wait a second I’m seeing some young men in this room right now Yeah they’re leaders but they have a lot of unmet needs. You saw it right then and there?

Steven Kendrick: You see it there for both the ones who make Youth Leadership but the ones we can’t get into Youth Leadership as well. It’s a county wide program; it’s regional program. So we have only 40 slots and so with that there’s a opportunity then to make it to where there are kids who potentially did not make there. So I do have kids who are in Youth Leadership and a part of Project Impact but more importantly the ones that did not make Youth Leadership but now able to be a part of something. But we created a program and a model that allowed us to do the very same types of things.

Brad Means: Jeff, when somebody comes into Project Impact I’m guessing there are grown-ups waiting for them, mentors true?

Jeff Pooser: That is correct.

Brad Means: And how do they help them? What sorts of things do they do? I know it’s a long list, but I’m trying to picture the moment a young person enters Project Impact. What’s the role of the grown-up?

Jeff Pooser: So, like Mr. Kendrick said, we have about 13 to 14 Advisors and our Advisors are there to oversee and administer the mentoring program for our young men. So, during our mentoring program we meet two sessions a month and in those two sessions, again, it’s a leadership and life skills development program. So, we want to assist our young men with developing their leadership potential and we also want to develop and enhance their life skills skill set.

Brad Means: Why don’t they have leadership skills or the skills that they need when they come to see you? What are the backgrounds that we’re talking about here? What kind of homes are these young folks from?

Jeff Pooser: Well, you know Brad …

Brad Means: Or does it vary from child to child?

Jeff Pooser: It actually does. You took the words out of my mouth. We have a variety of backgrounds in our young men. Obviously, a lot of them attend private schools and so we have identified deficits in their abilities as young men in hoping to be young adults. Responsible adults and so we have just seen the deficit so that’s where Project Impact Advisors step in and hopefully we are a sufficiency to that deficiency.

Brad Means: What are they advise them and mentor them on Steven? All sorts of things? Are they father figures too?

Steven Kendrick: So, for example, Saturday we are doing CPR certification training. We have decided that in talking with the young men that a lot of them were not aware of all the necessary tools in order to be a lifesaver for someone who is need. So we decided, we called some CPR coaches, we’re gonna pay for every to become CPR certified. Last week we were at a Augusta Tech, in culinary arts, and so we had all 45 boys together. We were in the kitchen with the chefs from Augusta Tech. They made egg rolls that day.

Brad Means: I love egg rolls.

Steven Kendrick: But we went through a lot of the things that were there. So those are life skills and we’ve done any number of things. There’s a financial component.

Brad Means: Yeah I was gonna ask you about the financial literacy component. So you bring some expert in that field and say, look here’s the right way to manage your money.

Jeff Pooser: That is correct Brad. We take it a step further. We actually do a financial deposit match program. So what happens is we set up accounts for all our young men and we encourage them to save responsibly. We ask them to save $20 a month and if they do that regularly, the program matches what they have in their account up to $100.

Brad Means: Well that’s a great program and an incredible way to teach a skill that so many of our young people and older folks don’t have: Financial literacy. What about the schools? Do you have a decent relationship with them? Do they send young people to you? How does it work?

Steven Kendrick: So we recruit from, of course, word of mouth but a lot of it is through the schools directly. So through Youth Leadership we had a pre relationship already with counselors and principals in these schools and so it was easy for us to go back and identify students who looked like they were a model fit for what we do and so we communicate with those advisors in those schools but a lot of ours comes from parents who call who say, “I’ve heard about your program “and I’ve gotta get my son in.” And so we accepted a kid last week whose mother, we had a meeting on Saturday, we told the mother the adults were having a meeting. She brought him to the adult’s meeting just to meet us. We all voted. We accepted the kid. We were at our maximum. We’re at a maximum of 50. We took him in anyway because the mother was just, I mean she said we had to do it. She brings you the t-bones and you’re over there eating it for lunch, you’ve gotta do something and so we did and so we look at taking them in in many different ways but the school system’s a big help.

Brad Means: Jeff, what are the young people like at first when they come to your program? Do they wanna do it at first in those initial days?

Jeff Pooser: Well, you know Brad, we have a lot of teenage males and so you can imagine some of them lack enthusiasm once they first begin our program, however, I think the passion that they see from their advisors and the fact that we show that we care about them, not just educationally but socially. They tend to light up. They tend to light up. They tend to form relationships with their mentors and the rest of their Advisors and then at the end of our program we usually find that they have grown in many ways.

Brad Means: What made you care about young people so much? What was it in your background that made you have a heart for them?

Jeff Pooser: So one of my passions is youth development and obviously because if I can see further it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of giants such as my mentor to the left of me Mr. Stephen Kendrick and many of the other advisors in Project Impact, so I have found it advantageous to surround myself with counsel of elder and older professionals and so I wanted to give those type of opportunities to other young men coming behind myself.

Brad Means: That’s a great answer and it’s a great reason for being there and you’ve been a mentor – Steven Kendrick – to countless young people in our community and you continue to do it each day. What kind of outcomes do you see? Jeff described what the young people look like in the beginning of the Project Impact. What are they like at the end?

Steven Kendrick: So I’ll tell a quick little story. We have a kid who graduated out our program and he went to college and he calls me one morning and he says, “Hey, I just wanted you to know “I’m running for Mr. Freshman at South Carolina “State University and I won and I just want you “to know that I’m representing Project Impact “the best that I can.” So, we the Advisors, now we just learned how to use this thing called Cash App.

Brad Means: Yeah, I’m still learning it.

Jeff Pooser: Brad, I’ve known–

Brad Means: You know how to do it?

Jeff Pooser: Steven hasn’t.

Steven Kendrick: I’m a little older.

Brad Means: Yeah, no, I need you all to teach me Zell and all of that.

Steven Kendrick: So the Advisors all got together. We know he’s in college. We all said let’s Cash App him $20 each. Guy wakes up a little bit later, he’s got $250 in his account sitting there and for us the response from him. So he’ll be in our 21st meeting. He wants to talk to the young men but him saying, he in college thought enough of this group to say I’m representing what you taught me made us say $20, we’ll waste that on lunch for the next two days. We sent it to him. He sent us the little emojis. I’m learning how to do those too. They’re crying, that kind of things. We just sent a college kid $250 that says hey what are you gonna do with that this week. We found that interaction with them every day is improving our lives and so it’s not so much what they get, it’s what we’re getting too. Because we were as excited as he was because every time we sent more money we got more emails and texts and so for us the opportunity to continue to be a part of their lives and some of the people and companies involved. I just want to mention, you know, First Community Bank. They were the ones who sponsored and are gonna match that program. Our foundation is not matching the money. The bank’s matching the money. You’ve got organizations like the Boys and Girls Club. They’re giving us the venue for free. You’ve got the Community Foundation. They provided us a grant. Everyone is looking in and saying, hey we’re there to help. So it’s just been a great opportunity.

Brad Means: Well what a blessing, you know our friends at First Community always do such a wonderful job for so many efforts. How can people help you? We have just about 15 seconds left. We want to make sure they know how to reach out.

Steven Kendrick: Well, we’re building our Facebook page. It is at Project Impact Augusta. You look for the group of boy on a little picture and we’re gonna have a campaign on there. So you’ll go on and be able to push a button and do the campaign and say, hey we want to help and we want to donate so we’ll looking forward to do that. Project Impact Augusta is the one that’s there and we hope that everybody will try to help.

Brad Means: Well I’m sure they will and thank you for what you do for our young people. Making those lives successes each and every day. Jeff Pooser and Stephen Kendrick we appreciate you so much.