A national men's organization that fights drug use and violence has chosen a Minneapolis man to sit at the helm.
VJ Smith founded the Minnesota chapter of Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder in 1998, and will soon become president of the national organization.
Smith says the new position means he'll show others around the country how to do the kind of community-building work taken on by his team in Minneapolis. He will be sworn in at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in north Minneapolis at the end of the month.
There are 10 chapters of MAD DADS nationwide, Smith said.
He wants to grow the organization and teach other chapters how he has been able to win the support of local elected leaders and raise money in the community. Smith said the recent shooting death in Minneapolis of a cab driver is a reminder of how much work needs to be done.
"If you change the parents, you change the kids. And when you improve the parents' lives, you improve the kids' lives. Sometimes we have to work from the top down," Smith said. "So many programs go right to the kids, but then they go home to parents who are drug-addicted and have issues and problems. We're trying to cover the whole area of the problems we believe are in our community."
Smith encourages people to volunteer a few hours a month as mentors to at-risk youth.
"So many people sit back and don't do anything. It's time for everybody to get off their chairs and couches, put down their beer, quit belching, and get up and begin to do this work," Smith said. "There are so many kids who need to be mentored, and as we look for mentors, we're having a hard time finding."