The people who started it all:
James E. Copple and Colleen Copple
Servant Forge’s co-founders, James E. Copple and Colleen Copple, bring decades of changemaking work at the state and national level in public policy, strategic planning, organizational development, community policing, coalition building, training, and public speaking among other expertise.
Mr. Copple has a long and distinguished career in youth work, education, substance abuse, crime and violence prevention, and police/criminal justice reform. A nationally recognized facilitator, speaker and writer in these fields, Mr. Copple facilitated the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing for the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015, achieving consensus on all recommendations and action steps.
Ms. Copple is a Senior Research Fellow with the Sagamore Institute for Public Policy and serves as a consultant with the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Capacity Development Office. Her work at CCDO focuses on creating national strategic partnerships for the Weed and Seed Program that increase resources and support for community-based coalitions addressing crime, prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood revitalization.
Their work has taken them across the globe from Native American reservations to African villages.
Regularly sought out as speakers and facilitators, the Copples are the founding partners of SAI LLC, an international consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations and communities respond to crime, violence, substance abuse, educational change, and security issues.
The Copples created Servant Forge to develop leaders in the helping professions.
Although the idea for Servant Forge was born earlier through their own experiences, it was a project in Swaziland in the mid-2000s that inspired them to found the nonprofit organization. The mission of Servant Forge is to create and empower leaders.
Ms. Copple remembers witnessing a grassroots effort to train women in villages how to do home visits for HIV and AIDS patients at the height of the epidemic in Swaziland.
“We met in this tiny little cinderblock building in the middle of nowhere in Swaziland, and a 24-year-old woman named Ruth led the meeting. She asked us to help them find money to help them have a garden. She said ‘The issue is we’re starving. Yes, we have AIDS, but we’re starving,’ ” Ms. Copple recalled.
Land had been donated, but the women needed money for water and fencing — about $5,000.
The Copples helped raise the money, and when Mr. Copple returned six months later, “it wasn’t a garden. It was a farm. They were not only taking care of themselves but other people in the village. They went from women who had been cast out of their homes to being the most successful women in the village,” Ms. Copple remembered.
Once you’re a witness to such leadership, “you’re compelled to respond. You can’t really walk away,” Ms. Copple said. “How do we listen to and walk alongside these natural leaders who emerge during these moments of crisis?”
Mr. Copple’s interest in servant leadership traces back to a trip to Bolivia when he was 19.
The sights and smells of extreme poverty overwhelmed him, and he initially thought “I have made a mistake.”
But then he watched leaders in action, and he was, as he puts it, “hooked” on servant work.
What does it mean to walk alongside others?
“First, we listen,” Ms. Copple said. “We support those natural leaders. We don’t come in thinking we have the answers or that we’re the ones who are going to be doing the work or the ones who are going to be out front. We work in an advisory capacity, but our goal is to help them achieve their objectives. The spirit just gives you guidance about how to do that. You know when people are genuine and sincere. You know when that’s the door you’re supposed to go through.”
Signs throughout their careers pointed to this type of work — even literally.
Mr. Copple remembers driving out west in Washington state and seeing a sign that read “Warrior Forge.”
He wondered “what would it be like to forge servant leadership?”
“In doing the work, we’re developing leaders. We’ve given them the opportunity to serve,” Mr. Copple said.
Mr. Copple leads trips for business and community leaders through Fairlead Sailing Excursions.
The trips give participants an opportunity to explore difficult challenges facing the world in a safe space.
What started as a group of friends getting together to sail has grown into annual voyages that offer participants a place to connect, reflect and grow. The trips bring together exemplary leaders from a variety of business, civic, faith, commerce, philanthropy and education sectors.
Mr. Copple helps participants recognize the inherent value of servant leadership.
“Servant leaders are the people who see a need and try to figure out how to respond to it even if it’s not their responsibility,” Ms. Copple said. “Every one of us has that opportunity and wherever we find ourselves, we see things that need to be improved. Leadership happens often in very informal and humble ways.”
She said Servant Forge believes “now’s the time. This is the place. We are the ones. Whatever your faith, whatever your philosophy of life, leave the world a better place than where you found it.”
Jessica R. Drake – Director of Project Development
Jessica Drake makes an immediate and long-lasting impact on each organization she touches. She’s logged more than 20 years of experience in volunteer and program management, community outreach, and project development cultivated at some of Baltimore’s most challenging housing, education and health care nonprofit organizations.
Building upon years with her boots on the ground, completing a master’s of science in global affairs and human securities served as notice of her entry into the field of community engagement as an expert in public policy who has, to date, shared her knowledge with university communities, police departments, tribal law enforcement, and an array of advisory panels, working groups, and task forces as a consulting member of the team at 21CP Solutions. Since 2017, Jessica has proudly served on the Baltimore Consent Decree Monitoring Team as one of the group’s most passionate local members.
As Vice President of Program Management and Development at Strategic Applications International (SAI), Mrs. Drake provided facilitation and support services for President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. While primarily engaged in logistics coordination, there also were opportunities to offer writing and editing support during the production of the final recommendations, report, and implementation guide. The grants she has monitored on behalf of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including the recent Law Enforcement Officers Mental Health and Wellness Case Studies that were presented to Congress during the 2019 legislative session, have produced comprehensive literature on officer safety and wellness (OSW). An expert in nationally-recognized best practices in OSW, in the past, Mrs. Drake has been called upon by the COPS Office to host a series of forums titled, Emerging Issues in Policing. These forums brought together the foremost experts in law enforcement with the most forward-thinking officers and ranking officials the nation’s departments had to offer, to address the challenges and tout the successes of police, city officials, and the communities they all are called to serve.
Previously, Mrs. Drake was the Director of Community Outreach and Volunteerism at the Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point area. She was the School and Youth Coordinator for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Maryland, and as the Advocacy and Youth Engagement Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake, she regularly led teams of teenage volunteers into the neighborhood of Pigtown and East Baltimore.
Mrs. Drake attended the University of Baltimore (UB), where she received her Bachelor of Science in Government and Public Policy. She returned to UB two years later and completed her Masters in Global Health and Human Security. You can learn more about her career on LinkedIn.
Jason R. Drake – Chief Operations Officer
Jason R. Drake is a management professional with more than 20 years of experience in marketing, financial management, and new business development. He earned his MBA through the University of Maryland Global Campus, where he focused his business management education to match his work experience. He received his leadership training through The Boy Scouts of America, through which he earned the Eagle Scout Award, the highest rank in its youth leadership development program . Through the program, he learned to lead a group and serve his community. Mr. Drake currently serves in his community as the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 124, Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 124, Roundtable Commissioner for the Dulaney District, member of the Baltimore Area Council International Committee, and parent volunteer for Baltimore County Public Schools.
In March 2011, Mr. Drake started his own business as a marketing consultant in the energy deregulation industry. He is now a senior consultant at Ambit Energy, mentoring a team of 35+ business partners and enrolling customers for guaranteed savings on electric and gas supply in energy-deregulated states as well as custom residential solar energy systems thanks to our strong SunRun Partnership. Innovations such as our Free Energy Program and Guaranteed Savings Program have allowed us to stay an industry leader during the past decade. http://drake.whyambitworks.com
In his previous position as Chief Operations Officer for Strategic Applications International (SAI) and Servant Forge, he helped manage 12+ years of federal, state, and local grants as well as a variety of financial consulting for partner international, national, and government organizations. He achieved his U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Grants Financial Management Certificate and continues to stay on top of business practices to keep organizations protected from internal and external financial audits.
He has extensive experience in nonprofit fundraising through his work with Servant Forge, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF), The Luke Commission, The Living Classrooms Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake in addition to grassroots fundraising, the coordination of large fundraising and government events including 2009 and 2013 Servant Forge Humanitarian Inaugural Ball, President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, and 2015-2019 National Forums, Facilitations, and Conferences.
Mr. Drake attended Towson University for his bachelor’s degree in business administration and obtained his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland Global Campus. You can learn more about his career on LinkedIn.