For some Madison Central High School students, representing their “hood” has more to do with giving back to their community in positive ways than the negative connotation the word has been associated with in the past.
Creating young leaders who take pride in their neighborhood was the goal of HOOD Inc., said founder and HOOD Student Group sponsor David Townsend.
HOOD stands for “the Home of Opportunities and Dreams” and is designed to give young people a chance to give back to their communities in a safe, structured environment while receiving guidance from positive adult role models.
Townsend, who is also a teacher and former coach, said he started the non-profit and student group at Central four years ago when he saw the need for more mentoring and service-learning opportunities for high school students.
The club sponsor said he wanted to reach out and provide a unique opportunity for students who might not get the chance elsewhere.
As one of the few African-American male teachers at the school, Townsend said he felt compelled to share his passion for service with others who might be in need of a positive role model they could relate to.
Townsend said growing up in a single-mother household, his character was shaped by the positive role models and experiences he had in Boy Scouts of America, the Boys and Girls Club and other organizations.
Since 2012, the HOOD Student Group has grown from a couple of enterprising young women (Ashley Beatty and Sahsha Baker), who were the original members of the group, to approximately 35 to 40 kids who are actively engaged with group activities.
Townsend credits Beatty and Baker’s commitment, to getting the word out about HOOD’s activities to other students and recruitment of new members to the growth of the group.
Since that time, the group members have performed more than 5,000 community service hours collectively and helped raise approximately $50,000 toward a long-term project to build a group home in Broadhead, Ky., for disadvantaged, abused and neglected children.
Townsend said most of the community service hours from the group come from the numerous volunteer hours spent working concession stands at numerous University of Kentucky athletic games in partnership with Aramark.
The group sponsor said members volunteer their Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays, working at the concessions where a portion of the proceeds of that day’s sales is given to the group.
“It’s amazing how dedicated these kids are,” Townsend said of the group’s members. “Depending on the game schedules, sometime we have to leave Richmond by 7 a.m. in order to get there in time to set up the concession booths. Then they work until the game is almost over. That adds up to an almost 12-hour day each weekend.”
Townsend said he has been impressed with the commitment of the studnets, noting their only reward for giving up their weekends is a “stop at McDonald’s or a box of donuts on the way.”
However, Townsend said, the group has fun while working and are learning valuable job skills while raising money for their long-term project.
“They enjoy it,” Townsend said. “They have a lot of fun and they take pride in doing community service. Many have also made some good impressions at UK and have been offered some employment opportunities or made good contacts for the future.”
Townsend said working at the concessions, HOOD members learn the importance of inventory, working with the public, time management and teamwork.
“It’s not a controlled environment,” Townsend explained. “Sometimes people are upset because the game isn’t going their way or they are not getting their food fast enough. They are learning how to deal with real-world scenarios.”
According to Townsend, the group has worked approximately 58 UK athlectic events over the years.
Townsend said the maturity of the HOOD members has led concession management to offer leadership roles to some of the students and an offer to return to work theRolex Kentucky Three-Day Equestrian Event at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Just this school year, members have collectively racked up 800 community service hours, which are not isolated to concessions work.
Townsend said members have also helped install vinyl siding on the group home they are helping to build in Broadhead, as well as fundraising at Zaxby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings.
In addition to funding the construction of the group home, HOOD members have also donated to its chosen philanthropy, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAKY), as well as awarding a $500 scholarship to a Central graduate.
The group also has provided support to local disadvantage and at-risk children and their families.
This year, the group is hoping to sponsor Christmas for a couple of families in the Madison County area.
Townsend said he is proud of the work HOOD members are doing and is in awe of the growth of the group and its accomplishments.
“It’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of time they are giving up,” Townsend said. “I’ve found that to be amazing. They really want to help their community and make it better.”
Townsend said the group hopes to open the group home around April 2018 and noted the hard work of the students that will make it possible.
“The progress of this grassroots organization would not have been possible if not for the contributions of the HOOD student group at MCHS. In my opinion, they have set the standard for community service. Their contributions will afford us the opportunity to help at-risk youth and disadvantaged families for years to come,” Townsend said.
For more information about the organization, visit www.thehoodinc.org.