Evan Chase and Leading At-Risk Youth from the Broadway to the Straightway
Evan Chase will readily describe himself as an unashamed bible thumping, Jesus loving, hard core Christian conservative. His message, however, is quite distinct from the fire and brimstone you often hear from the far right evangelical camp. He preaches respect and tolerance for viewpoints that may differ from his own. Yes, he believes in Jesus and as President of the local Beach Cities Republicans Club he is accustomed to the political rhetoric that often draws sharp lines between his camp on the right and those on the left, but listening to him you get the sense that above all he cherishes the notion of community and bringing people together to solve the tough issues that plague our society.
To help create that sense of community, Evan currently serves as VP of a faith based non-profit organization called StraightWays. The mission of StraightWays is to unite faith and business together to empower at-risk youth and the urban poor through vocational and job placement services. StraightWays primarily seeks to serve those that come from the foster care system. As a foster parent of two children himself, Evan will tell you that 65% of kids that get bounced from foster home to foster home end up homeless and that 70% of those in prison were in the foster system at some point. StraightWays aims to give these at risk youth a chance to succeed before they become just another negative statistic.
To accomplish this mission StraightWays first helps at risk youth discover their passion and the value of employment through a Jobs for Life training program. StraightWays then helps students that complete the program make the transition from course work to real work by providing placement with for profit businesses that StraightWays helps get off the ground. One of these is a coffee producer named Black Coffee that utilizes a unique air roasting method. StraightWays also has a construction firm and is working on a restaurant and catering business through revitalizing iconic Jordan’s Café in Watts.
StraightWays is also working to form alliances and partnerships with organizations like the United Small Business Alliance and other corporations like OMNI Hotels and PVP Communications to provide additional job placement avenues for those in the Program.
Even though StraightWays is still a new organization it is already well on its way to reaching its goals. It has secured a 15,000 square foot property across from El Camino College it currently uses as an education center. It hopes to utilize the site to build a coffee shop for its affiliated Black Coffee brand as well as provide space for other start-ups such as a local tech company that has expressed interest.
As a man of faith Evan has seen the hand of God in the new enterprise. The pieces have come together quickly and people have stepped in with willing hearts and open checkbooks to help out. One individual, for example, dropped off thousands of dollars worth of used office equipment. Another offered to utilize some of their space to help establish an organization that could provide micro-loans to young entrepreneurs with good ideas. Mark Tsuneishi, a successful local businessman, volunteered to teach classes in the Jobs for Life program and helped the organization connect with Magic Johnson and the Lakers for an upcoming fundraiser.
The ultimate aim of StraightWays goes far beyond just vocational training and job placement. Evan wants all those that participate in StraightWays to feel a part of a larger community that is there to support them and help them realize their dreams. As Evan would tell you, “my agenda is your success.” Just as the Bible teaches Evan has found himself by losing himself in the service of others. Through StraightWays he hopes others will do the same.
To learn more about StraightWays or to attend their upcoming fundraiser with the Lakers at the Staples Center visit their website found here.