By Jim (Habanero) Duffy
I was first drawn to chiles out of curiosity, not knowing that they would lead me to a greater purpose in life. Seeing the impact
I had at the youth centers inspired me to do more for the kids, and the more I did, the more impact I had. God had introduced me
to something as simple as a chile pepper. Where would it lead?
I was bringing dinners weekly to two youth centers. The kids loved the food, and I began to love them. One day in 2006 I found
myself with leftover food, so I went to a larger El Cajon center and offered it there. I remember a little boy asking me if I
would be back. "Yes, I will," I replied. Now I was at two centers on Wednesdays and one on Fridays.
My inspiration came from God
the one who made chiles
I began to wonder how I would fund the dinners, and soon created a business called "Refining Fire," to sell my sauces and do small
catering jobs. This gave me the resources to feed the youth almost every week of the year and later to send many to San Diego
State athletic events. I was also able to get athletes from SDSU to visit the kids and spend time with them. God provided a way
for all of this to happen and it started with a single chile. Growing exotic chiles is challenging, especially in a hydroponic
system. How did it happen? I believe God made it happen. My Pastor, Dave, was never a speaker because he stuttered, but today he
co-pastors and has a church of over 2,000 people. My other pastor walks his neighborhood praying and almost 15 years ago, God
gave him a vision to create a youth center called Youth Venture and now we have four of them in San Diego that reach thousands of
kids. God makes it happen.
God urged me to show love to these kids. Most of them do not have fathers, so in addition to feeding them I began funding their
trips to athletic events. When they eat my meals, God is telling them, "I love you." When they go to an event or game, God is
saying, "I love you." God has ways of saying "I love you," even if your home is broken, your parents are broken, and you are poor.
He loves you even if you have made the wrong choices…….and I am deeply gratified that He uses me to tell the kids He loves them.
My continued work with these youth is inextricably tied to, "Refining Fire." Though the business is not 100% non-profit, the
expansion of salsa and chile sales enables me to increase my work with Youth Venture. The generation that succeeds us will
inherit this earth. All of them were born with a purpose. We can contribute to their success by finding creative ways to love them.
Some of the teens at the center
We can make a difference in the life of a youth even if he/she is not our own. If you have a church, you can do what we are
doing. Feel free to contact us about how. I have seen entire apartment complexes full of delinquents transform into a safe place
for children. I have seen kids headed toward jail now married with children and mentoring the same kind of kids they once were.
I am a blue-collar, single dad who grows chiles and cooks. What talents or gifts do you possess? Perhaps you are looking for a
worthwhile cause to support. The kids at Youth Venture could use your help. Thanks for visiting my site. If you are a praying
person, please pray for the kids at Youth Venture, and my vision for reaching them.
Though I do not accept donations, you may contribute to Youth Venture by contacting Suzanne Alicardi at Foothills Christian Church
(619-442-7728). I trust this website has contributed to your knowledge of chiles and hydroponic gardening. Most of all, I hope
that you will volunteer to help youth wherever you live.
About Youth Venture
Pastor Mark Hoffman founded Youth Venture in the early 1990's. What started out as one center has now grown to four. Youth, ages
11 through 18, have a safe place to hang out that is gang and drug free. Each center has multiple video consoles for gaming, as
well as ping-pong, pool, foosball, arcade games, board games, crafts and couches to relax on. The centers play music that fits
the age group, but without violent and offensive lyrics. One center in El Cajon has volleyball, basketball and even a good-size
skate park. Membership in the center is free.
Kids come to Youth Venture after school and on weekends. They can interact with other youth, play games, get one-on-one mentoring
and receive homework help 362 days a year! If they wish, they can join one of many Jr. High and High School groups at Foothills
Christian Church. Activities there include Bible Study and leadership mentoring, as well as games: airsoft, paintball, flag
football, beach bonfires, movies, bowling, etc. Members of Youth Venture go on trips to the beach, mountain retreats, Disneyland,
Magic Mountain, water parks, desert camping, and even a once-a-year surf camp. These activities require the kids to do some
fundraising like raffles or car washes, but every effort is made to ensure that those with an interest get to go.
See more of the kids, special events and the visiting Aztecs team in the
Youth Venture and the group activities associated with it are impacting over 70,000 youth a year in the East County of San Diego,
which is more that any youth organization in the area, including the YMCA. All staff are volunteer adults, some of them college
students. Funding comes from church donations and a few businessmen in the San Diego area. The largest fundraising event is the
Youth Venture Golf Tournament that is held every year at the end of September.
A Short Story
Mike's son was skateboarding past our youth center one day when it first opened. He was invited in, and later he and his sister
became members. Soon, they were active in the church. One day, as Mike was sitting down to drink a beer and watch football, he
and his wife noticed their kids were getting dressed up. Mike asked what was going on. His kids told him they were going to be
in a musical program at church, so Mike and his wife poured their beer out and went to see their children perform. Later they
started attending church, and shortly thereafter Mike began to volunteer at Youth Venture. Soon, he was put in charge of the
The kids at a 2007 Aztec game
So, where is Mike now? He is our church administrator. He leads a Monday night Bible study and has worked many years volunteering
with youth and children. Mike has also mentored many young men. All of Mike's children are happily married. They are active in
their church and lead productive lives. Mike is one of the most kindhearted, loving men I know. I wonder where Mike's family
would be now if his son had not been invited to come off the street into Youth Venture. I could fill up a whole website with
Youth Venture is making a difference in East County, San Diego. A child may be poor and abused, have a broken home or even be
rejected by his or her peers, but walking into a Youth Venture Center can begin a new chapter. I encourage you to read a book by
Mark Hoffman called The Joshua Principle. It tells the Youth Venture story and describes a vision that can change a community, a
city, or even a nation. Information on how to obtain the book or donate to Venture can be found on this website, as well as links
to the Youth Venture site, golf tournament site, and our big summer youth outreach, "Future Quest." If you want to duplicate
Youth Venture in your community, I am sure Mark can help you. Again, thanks for visiting my site, and God Bless!