ST. LOUIS (KMOX)-Not far from where Babe Ruth hit a home run into an auto dealership, a local organization is setting up shop in hopes of turning around one of St. Louis’ most troubled neighborhoods.
Mission: St. Louis is moving its Workforce Development Center from The Grove into the 100-year old former YMCA building on North Grand at Sullivan.
Executive Director Josh Wilson says Mission: St. Louis will provide a gathering spot, a bank, legal services, job training with paid internships and even an incubator. “Here’s a place where you can get all the resources that you need unto employment,” he says. “We’ll help them find access to the workforce. Be equipped and trained for that workforce and then be able to overcome hurdles that might keep them from sustaining employment.”
Mission is teaming up with the city of St.Louis through SLATE (St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment) in the effort.
“We don’t want to just be a building that sits on the corner,” says Beyond Jobs Director Jason Watson. “We want to be people that are integrated with the people that are already here in this community.”
To that end Watson, a north St. Louis native, says they have gone door to door to meet people, and connect with them. “We recognize how valuable relationship is. We also understand the people in this community are and how seriously they take their environment and their community.”
We don’t need to change their culture” Wilson says. “We don’t need to change who they are. We don’t need to give them value. We just have to give them access to things they don’t have access to.”
Wilson says they have a connection with employers and constantly keep in touch with them and those who go through their programs. Watson says part of that is overcoming the racial divide that keeps black north-side youth from connecting with white suburban business owners. “We’re playing a role in being able to break away some of the segregation that exists within our city by bringing diversities together that they might interact.”
For those who want to start their own business, the incubator will help with things like payroll, bookkeeping, licensing and insurance.
Mission plans to use the first two floors and the basement of the seven-story building, which last served as a charter school building, with future expansion possible. Wilson is seeking $6 million in grants, tax credits and other mechanisms to fund the renovation, which he hopes to complete early next year.
While the renovation is in its early stages, Mission: St. Louis is hosting a Grand Opening Thursday May 11, from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the building at 3108 N Grand Ave.