Wayne Devonish saw a need in Brooklyn to bring more men together to mentor youth in the community. He heeded that call by creating 500 Men Making a Difference last year, and is already making his mark.
Now serving as chairman for 500 Men Making a Difference, he already has a track record of making an impact in Brooklyn as the executive director of Central Brooklyn Community Services, which develops and manages affordable housing and commercial property.
Growing up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Devonish said he was fortunate to have both of his parents in his life. He graduated from A. Phillip Randolph High School in Harlem before going to Hunter College, where he earned a degree in biology. However, things after that didn’t exactly go as planned.
“I wanted to be a scientist but it didn’t work out,” he said jokingly. “I started out at Habitat for Humanity and then I went to Keller Graduate School, where I got my MBA. I became a developer.”
Devonish has served as executive director of CBCS for the last three years. Under his leadership, several non-profit organizations have been housed in multiservice centers in Bed-Stuy and Brownsville.
But even while putting a roof over the heads of non-profits, Devonish wanted to put more in to the community. He had noticed a staggering problem among local young men that just would not go away.
While plotting plans for a major building project in central Brooklyn, he realized the power of bringing the community together. In June of last year he founded 500 Men Making a Difference, a network of men in the community on a mission to make improvements.
“There’s a lot of guys just like me trying to make thing happen,” he said. “I knew that if we just gathered all of these men I know, we could focus energy on particular projects. I know a lot of positive guys who are trying to do great stuff but people just don’t know.”
In the seven months that 500 Men has been in existence the group has hit the ground running with several projects. During last year’s American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, 500 Men brought out one of the largest groups of men. The group also had a men’s day at Boys and Girls High School.
During the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, 500 Men brought together 27 men to restore the ceiling of the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church’s Spann Jones Fellowship Hall. Working together with the community, a job that would have cost $15,000 was done for free.
The group hopes to continue to build its database of members, and Devonish wants to create a one-on-one peer mentoring program at Boys and Girls High School, training close to 1,000 men for the program. He also wants to grow his mentoring database to 10,000.
For more information about 500 Men Making a Difference, www.500menmakingadifference.com.