More than twenty years ago, Joe Smith saw a need in Chattanooga. He used his athletic skills to encourage at-risk youths to put on boxing gloves, to channel their mischievous energies into something constructive. He founded the West Side Boxing Club, which morphed into Chattanooga’s YCAP (Youth Community Action Project).

For more than twenty years, Smith, his family and friends, have shepherded the kids nobody believed in. He can’t boast of a 100% success rate, but the streets are indeed safer because Smith took the time to care.

The program now includes summer enrichment programs for boys, and it is proving to be a huge success.

Years ago, Smith expanded his YCAP program to go far beyond boxing. Academic help was provided, and Smith began regular visits to schools to let the kids know he was keeping an eye on them, as well as being an advocate for them.

Smith has since become a Hamilton County school board member. He has introduced a woodworking program, giving the teens a chance to earn some pride, as well as a few bucks, by making something with their hands.

Gardening has also been added to the mix.

Some of the boys credit the program with helping them learn the meaning of respect for their elders.

It has also shown them alternatives to settling disagreements by fighting. 

For many of them, YCAP has provided their first trip outside the city limits, taking them all over the nation for tournaments and competitions.

Smith says he has learned the real key in making a difference isn’t about money, or out-of-town consultants, or the latest trendy programs. It is about building relationships.

“People want to help, they really do,” Smith said. “But they don’t know how. Just tell ‘em to call me.”

For more information on YCAP, call 423-847-7682 or click here.