914United Inc. was founded in 2020 by Jonathan Alvarez and John Cabrera. These childhood friends recognized the lack of support for formerly incarcerated individuals and at-risk youth in the City of Yonkers and sought to make a change. Their initial efforts consisted of organizing a male support group called the “You’re Not Alone Brotherhood,” which created a space for vulnerability and open communication to discuss personal issues. The aim was to address the burden men carry by themselves and the masks society forces them to hide behind.
Alvarez and Cabrera sought to further their community and humanitarian work. To do so, they joined the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, in early 2020, as mentors and staff committee members to cultivate their mentoring skills. They toured public schools and facilitated workshops that were inspired by their lived experiences as justice-involved and gang-influenced youth.
But this work was disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis, which forced them to engage in remote mentorship. However, Alvarez and Cabrera realized virtual mentorship was not enough to accomplish their mission. The Co-Founders decided to form a relief effort team to support the essential workers and first responders serving on the frontlines of the pandemic. In two months, they raised nearly $20,000 in capital and PPE supplies. They serviced over 60 locations – including local hospitals, medical centers, fire departments, and commercial facilities. Their biggest feat was organizing a food drive to feed 300 individuals in need.
Concurrently, the untimely death of George Floyd sparked waves of social tension across the nation. Both Alvarez and Cabrera were called on to participate at Black Lives Matter rallies throughout Westchester County. Entering the space of community activism positioned them to expand their social networks and to connect with like-minded individuals. These efforts – though an unintended outcome – raised the community awareness of the newly emerging advocates and propelled them to officially become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Hence, came the birth of 914United Inc.
In 2021, the 914United mission took a step forward. The Co-Founders developed a curriculum for the Youth Leadership Development Initiative and recruited local professionals to facilitate interactive, in-person seminars on group mentoring, financial literacy, and civic empowerment. While professionals successfully piloted these workshops in the community, Alvarez piloted them in the Westchester County jail as he worked in the Youth Offender Program. But the need to offer more tangible support to the reentry population remained. Alvarez and Cabrera, therefore, launched The Streets Give Back campaign, which collected brand new apparel from 14 different local fashion companies and provided nearly 120 returning citizens with fresh shirts, sweatsuits, hoodies, head covers, and under garments.
By July of 2021, 914United Inc. had expanded to 10 members - half of whom have been involved in the criminal justice system, but all of whom are credible messengers. The team and its quality of service paved the way to securing a two-year contract with the Family Service of Westchester to provide support and mentorship to incarcerated youth and their families. Subsequently, the team collaborated with the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester to facilitate its 8-week Real Modeling program.
After that, they joined the Digital Equity Now movement by partnering with STEM Alliance to offer digital skills training to the formerly incarcerated – with the goal of closing the digital divide that disadvantages low-income communities. Concurrently, the untimely death of George Floyd sparked waves of social tension across the nation. Both Alvarez and Cabrera were called on to participate at Black Lives Matter rallies throughout Westchester County. Entering the space of community activism positioned them to expand their social networks and to connect with like-minded individuals. These efforts – though an unintended outcome – raised the community awareness of the newly emerging advocates and propelled them to officially become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Hence, came the birth of 914United Inc.
Finally, valued as a community stakeholder, 914United Inc. was awarded a grant by the Westchester County Youth Bureau to join the collective efforts in curbing gun violence in Yonkers, New York. This opportunity enabled the organization to launch the Leaders Build Leaders program to deter gang and criminal involved youth from their lifestyles and give them access to personal development programs. The highlight of this campaign was the Women Leadership Initiative, which targeted teenage girls and young adult women who are system-impacted.