By Jen Khedaroo
To an outsider looking in, Venture House serves as an oasis for those who need mental health services. But the nonprofit goes beyond finding employment and housing for its program participants, they give their “club members” a chance to be social, express their creativity and show off their strengths.
It’s what appealed to Gil Young Jo, a business development associate consultant for the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, when he was first made aware of Venture House at a Queens Chamber Board Development for Local Nonprofits event back in June.
That’s where Young Jo met executive director Juliet Douglas. The two immediately clicked when it came to the future of Venture House, sharing a similar vision for the Jamaica-based nonprofit.
“The goal of the event was to have a round-robin, where you get to feel out the nonprofits in the entire room to give yourself more perspective,” Young Jo explained. “You weren’t supposed to stay with just one agency, but long story short, we ended up talking for an hour. I spent nearly all of my time with them.”
“It was like Match.com for recruitment,” Douglas added. “It came at a perfect time because the board has been looking to add people for years.”
Both Douglas and Young Jo noticed the “really good mojo” between them, and he insisted that if it weren’t for that Queens Chamber event, he probably wouldn’t be sitting on the board today. And as a Hillcrest High School graduate, he’s happy to be able to give back to Jamaica.
Venture House has been in the neighborhood for more than 30 years. When it first opened, one floor of the Queens YMCA was adequate. But as membership grew, the organization expanded its foothold in the neighborhood until they settled into their new home in 1999, a building at 150-10 Hillside Avenue.
While the building’s exterior is architecturally beautiful, one wouldn’t be able to guess just how airy, bright and colorful the space is behind the walls. Along with the administrative services, education, employment, housing and maintenance, and dining units, the two floors consists of a cafe, a serene backyard garden and a recreation room complete with musical instruments and yoga mats.