Business Groups Invest More Than $2 Million In St. Louis-Area Community Improvement Programs | St. Louis Public Radio

Business Groups Invest More Than $2 Million In St. Louis-Area Community Improvement Programs

Jun 18, 2019

The Regional Business Council and Civic Progress on Tuesday announced more than $1 million in funding for eight St. Louis community organizations working to increase education and economic opportunities.

And the Business Council said it was giving an additional $1.2 million to a neighborhood cleanup program.

The community groups that received funding provide a range of services, from employment training and placement to housing assistance and gun-violence de-escalation. These investments allow many of the organizations to focus or expand services to historically underserved communities in north St. Louis.

That’s true for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, which is expanding its Save our Sons program with the help of a $250,000 grant. The program helps unemployed and underemployed black men in the region find stable jobs.  

“Since we opened the office on Dr. King Day, we have 130 men that have received employment from this north St. Louis Office, and we want to continue that trend,” said Michael McMillan, CEO of the Urban League.

The league teamed up with Better Family Life to open an office in north St. Louis earlier this year.

McMillan also stressed the collaborative spirit of these grants between organizations.

“Without support from the business community, all of these things would just be ideas,” McMillan said. “Only through working in a collaboration in the business world, the government, and not-for-profits can we really get to the heart of serving the people in the community.”

Other organizations that received funding include: Better Family Life, Beyond Housing, STL Youth Jobs, The Little Bit Foundation, public charter-school system KIPP St. Louis, St. Louis County Library and St. Louis Public Library.

During a press event, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page emphasized the shared responsibility between government and the private sector in addressing poverty.

“When any part of the county isn’t thriving, that affects our whole region and all of our potential,” Page said. “To break this cycle of poverty, all of our residents need to have access to opportunity, education and resources.”

Operation Clean Sweep

The Regional Business Council said the additional $1.2 million for Better Family Life will help fund a St. Louis neighborhood cleanup program ⁠— Operation Clean Sweep.

This summer, the organization ⁠— along with local construction companies, city departments and neighborhood volunteers ⁠— plans to tear down abandoned buildings.

Kathy Osborn, CEO of the council, said they will also clean up debris, mow grass and install new park benches.

She said the new funding will specifically go toward improving neighborhoods in the high-crime area known as “Hayden’s rectangle,” which is roughly bordered by Goodfellow Boulevard, West Florissant Avenue, Vandeventer Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

“What we’re really trying to say is, with some investment and work and the right kind of law enforcement, 'Can we make a difference in the trajectory in that community?' And we’re already seeing that happening,” Osborn said.

The city has a modest budget to improve neighborhood appearances, she said, which makes private funding for this program critical.

“We found that the people in the neighborhood are starting to feel like they can come out of their homes; they’re taking some pride,” Osborn said. “They’re taking back their neighborhoods.”

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