We had the good fortune of connecting with Izell Bennett and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Izell, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The past 20 years I have worked with various demographics of youth. I managed a residential facility for juvenile offenders to help rehabilitate youth who were released from prison to transition into the community. I worked with sibling groups and emergency placements of youth in foster care at Cumberland Presbyterian Children’s Home to assist youth in coping and navigating life after being exposed to trauma. I helped open the first teen homeless shelter for unaccompanied and displaced youth in Denton County due to numerous unfortunate circumstances like family economic challenges, homelessness, running away from abusive homes, bullying and unacceptance within the home, foster care, etc.
Youth that are hurting and learning to heal have always been my passion. I strive to help teens strategically play the cards that life has dealt them. I launched K.I.N.G.S clothing brand as a way to focus positive energy towards youth who learned how to respond to life in a negative way. K.I.N.G.S is an acronym for, “Keep Inspiring the Next Generation for Success”. Trauma informed care teaches us the only way to combat the negative effects that trauma has on the brain of a youth is to use positive and healthy connections. An authentic, caring environment is the only way to heal negative experiences and hurt. I created K.I.N.G.S clothing to empower youth to have a voice and to be more than what they have been through while encouraging them to overcome their past in order to conquer their future. I still communicate with and mentor many of my former youth. They are always supportive and help spread K.I.N.G.S’ message by being brand ambassadors and models. “The heart to give”, is the founding principle behind K.I.N.G.S clothing.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am the Director of Food Operations for First Refuge Ministries, a non-profit located in Denton, TX. First Refuge Ministries offers free medical, dental, counseling, and food services to the community. First Refuge Ministries believes that every person has worth and value because they are created by God. We aim to honor God and bring Him glory by reaching out to our under-served neighbors with an open door, healing hands and a generous heart prepared to serve, love, and encourage others–no matter who they are. Our goal is to minister to the entire person, including physical, emotional, and spiritual needs by offering essential services to those in our community.
What sets First Refuge Ministries food pantry apart from others is that we offer 9 food distributions every week, Monday-Thursday (5 distributions at our office locations Denton and Sanger and several at local church partners in Denton, Lake Dallas, Krum and Sanger). Our goal is to ensure that no matter what day or time, if someone has a need for food, we have a food distribution available. On top of our 9 food distributions, we have a Community Grocery Store program where we created a grocery store style food pantry inside of a high school in Sanger, TX and NCTC-Gainesville. We are in the process of opening our third location inside of Delay Middle School in Lewisville. We work in collaboration with other community programs such as Communities in School of North Texas and NCTC-Corinth/Denton to provide on campus food pantry services for students.
The biggest lesson I have learned along the way is to trust in God. During the past 2 years of dealing with a global pandemic, health issues, and financial challenges, my faith has grown tremendously. God really showed me how much He loves me. That is why I will continue to be passionate about giving back, working with the under-served in our community and working closely with youth because they are the future.
Everyone deserves to be loved and to have support as they face life’s obstacles. I don’t show up every day to get recognized or to receive a pat on my back. I show up because I am blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to my community.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I enjoy the wide range of food options that Texas has to offer from Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen and Razzoo’s to Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles to name a few. I recommend anyone to take their best friend to check out the Fort Worth Stockyards, Beth Marie’s on Denton’s Square, or Main Event to enjoy bowling, laser tag, and arcade games.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give a shoutout to all the youth that I had the privilege of working with. The young men who would come to my office, at the residential program for juvenile offenders, to talk about life. These young men were convicted of varies crimes such as armed robbery, attempted murder, possession of a controlled substance and other crimes, who were just teenagers trying to figure out life and where they fit. We would talk about the things they wanted to do in the future, relationships, fears they struggled with, and hurt they were not equipped to process.
I want to give a shoutout to the elementary students I worked with helping their families get the resources needed at Urban Day School in Milwaukee, WI. Students I played basketball with or talked with after they had a hard day in class. The students who told me thank you for holding them accountable for their actions and holding them to higher expectations to achieve greatness.
I want to thank all the youth in foster care while working at Cumberland Children’s home in Denton TX. Youth who were angry and hurt after being removed from their homes and placed in a foreign program with strangers. The youth I would sit with when they were afraid to go to sleep. The youth I taught how to value being unique and embrace who they were created to be. The youth that I may had to take to the hospital, to a family visit, their first job interview, cheerleading practice or to an aquarium for the first time.
I want to thank the homeless youth who helped shape the program at Kyle’s Place located in Lewisville, TX that continues to be the safe haven for many youths in need of a loving environment.
Being able to see my former youth graduate college, get a job, learn how to save money, learn how to cook and clean and get their own apartment for the first time, has been a true blessing. To every person that allowed me to come and speak about the issues and challenges our youth face every day. To every newspaper, tv station and magazine who shared the stories of these amazing and resilient youth, thank you. To God who created me to be so compassionate and humble to connect with teens who are starving for healthy connections. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if it wasn’t from the impact of the youth who are a part of my legacy and journey.
Other: Email: email@example.com