The Story

In 1995, Richard DeVos, co-founder of the Amway Corporation, and his wife, Helen, challenged their four children and spouses to work together to develop a philanthropic program based on their shared interests. An intensive discovery process revealed their common passion to be at-risk youth in urban settings.

Once that had been identified, the DeVos family determined that they could make optimal impact not by replicating existing youth programs, but rather by investing in the creation of a leadership development initiative focused on sustaining urban youth workers in ministry while building their capacity to develop effective organizations and to produce leaders. The development process for the initiative included research, interviews and focus groups with local and national ministry leaders and youth workers.

In 1998, the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative was launched in four cities that had been deeply involved in the early stage of curriculum development: Grand Rapids, Phoenix, Orlando, and Boston. A total of thirty-six urban youth ministry leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds participated.

Since 1998, The DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative has conducted training in over thirty-two major urban centers across the United States, and over 900 urban youth ministry leaders have completed the program. The Initiative remains committed to its goal of investing in the lives of urban youth workers who demonstrate success in working with youth in communities of high poverty and unemployment, and who are positioned for growth and change in their leadership.

Why Leadership Development

A passion for leadership development is part of the DNA of the DeVos family. The values and behaviors that have guided the family’s business practice and philanthropy demonstrate their belief in the unlimited potential of each person and in the importance of effective leaders. When confronted with the leadership challenges of urban youth workers, developing leaders who were personally healthy and professionally equipped to impact their organization and the youth they served was a natural fit. 

The DeVos Family

Richard & Helen DeVos were raised in families for whom faith was a priority. Their marriage is rooted in a genuine belief that all people were created in God’s image and that because of their faith they had a responsibility to be good stewards of all the resources God has given them. Richard DeVos cofounded the Amway Corporation in 1959 with his business partner, Jay Van Andel. Their vision was simple: to work each day to help people live better lives. They achieved their vision by demonstrating their belief in people and helping them to discover their potential and achieve their goals. In 1991, the family purchased the Orlando Magic and founded RDV Sports, giving them greater opportunities to work together and invest in others.

Richard and Helen’s children; Dick, Dan, Cheri and Doug, along with their spouses, continue to build upon their parents’ example of a strong commitment to business, community and faith and a firm belief in others. The DeVos family demonstrates that belief in others through their philanthropy. Their strong faith in God compels them to generously fund efforts that help others achieve their goals, live better lives, and know Jesus Christ as their Savior.