NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Cortez Higgs has dedicated his life to making a better for future for his community.
As a former deputy sheriff and youth pastor, he has seen the toll that a negative environment can have on a child. Instead of accepting that, he works every day to inspire and empower the youth around him.
About six years ago, he created The Catalyst Effect, a group designed to put the "unity" back in "community." The idea is to to actively encourage young people to make significant and lasting change so they can have a brighter future.
While the pandemic has rattled the country, it hasn't stopped the group's mission. In fact, Higgs says it has only taught the young men and women new lessons.
"Once they get that experience [of helping others], that experience brings them alive and they start to take ownership," Higgs said. "They start to take ownership of their lives and say 'Hey, serving the community is my responsibility, speaking up is my responsibility,' and that’s what we’re seeing. We are seeing more young people becoming excited because they feel a part of something bigger than themselves and when they feel a part of something bigger than themselves then it causes them to naturally want to take responsibility for something that they are part of."
Over the past few months, the group's CommUNITY Care & Action Team has created and delivered care package for first responders, homeless individuals and others needing encouragement.
Since their journey started, the group has been able to create well over 1,500 care packages filled with treats and encouragement for the men and women who are putting themselves in harm's way.
The action of giving back teaches the kids how to be selfless and think of others.
Higgs says, "It's our small part, but if everybody across the community and nation would do their small part, you put all of those small parts together and it makes a beautiful puzzle."
On Friday, they will be delivering care packages to the nurses at Sentara Norfolk General and then saluting the some 600 nurses at the Hampton VA Medical Center.