Change has a ripple effect and it all starts with one individual. That's what youth advocate Frederick Dryden wanted his audience to take away.

“Every great organization, every great company, it starts with one,” he told close to 600 people at the annual Hamilton Community Prayer Breakfast at LIUNA Station Tuesday.

Dryden, founder and executive director of youth support charity Liberty for Youth, shared the story behind his organization, which focuses on providing prevention and intervention for at-risk youth living in Hamilton and surrounding areas.

Born in Jamaica, Dryden moved to Ontario when he was 11 years old. After experiencing abuse as a teen, Dryden was inspired to start an organization dedicated to helping youth. 

Now in its 10th year, Liberty for Youth has helped more than 400 youth and awarded $50,000 worth of scholarships over the years, according to Dryden. He is also particularly proud that 19 youth have become first-generation post-secondary students with the support from the charity. 

“No one in their family has gone to college,” Dryden said.

After spending more than a decade advocating for youth in the city, Dryden said he has witnessed a growing effort to understanding youth culture in Hamilton.

“We are more open to work with youth ... just the realization that the generation is transforming,” he told CBC Hamilton. “There's also a lot more collaboration between agencies and organizations.”

Mayor Bob Bratina, who attended the breakfast with his City Hall colleagues, said he first met Dryden when Youth for Liberty was looking for a place to settle down in Hamilton. Bratina said he recommended Dryden explore the city's east end instead of the downtown core, and the charity has since found a home on King Street East west of Kenilworth Avenue South. 

“There are so many agencies in the downtown core. There's need all over the city,” Bratina explained his suggestion. “It's important that we see all of these agencies that are working with people locate where the people are who are in need and I think [Liberty for Youth] did that very well.”

The Hamilton Community Prayer Breakfast is an annual gathering that brings Hamiltonians together in the spirit of building a healthy community. It is now in its 39th year.