What became a symbol of the unrest in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 will become a "phoenix rising."
That's the hope of officials with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis who are planning a $500,000 jobs center on the site of the burned-out QuikTrip at 9240 W. Florissant Ave.
"We will transform what was a tragedy and turn it into a triumph, and do something significant, so that people will see that St. Louis is moving in the right direction," said Urban League president and CEO Mike McMillan.
QuikTrip Corporation will demolish the remains of store, remediate the site and donate the land to the Urban League, a donation worth more than $1 million. Michael Johnson, a member of the company's board of directors, said the QuikTrip opened the store in Ferguson in 1981 and was a proud member of the neighborhood.
"Today we want to be part of the solution. We want to be part of our community’s healing," Johnson said. "It is our hope this location will become a beacon of hope and a pathway for prosperous future."
The Urban League's new center will house the nonprofit’s Save Our Sons program at the site of the former convenience store. That program gained more than $1 million in corporate donations from companies including Ameren and Emerson when it began in January. It offers one-month job training to African-American men from the surrounding area and matches them with local companies.
In addition to the Save our Sons jobs program, McMillan said counseling for housing, rent and utility assistance and mental health services also will be available at the new center.
In January, McMillan talked to “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh about the group’s Save Our Sons program and other efforts in the region.
“St. Louis will always be viewed in a pre- and post-Michael Brown era in terms of the positioning that we have nationally and internationally; the perception that we have and the reality,” McMillan said. “Obviously, what it has exposed are all of the problems that we have here in St. Louis — some that they knew about and some that they really did not know about. It has exposed those to the nation and, in some cases, the world.”
Save Our Sons is a job-training program. It offers four-week classes, geared toward 17- to 40-year-old black men in the St. Louis area.
“We give them a number of different classes. We work with different educational partners on how to get a job, how to interview, how to do online applications, how to dress, how to prepare a resume, how to advance in a company, how to stay with a company, and how to make sure that you have the capacity to have a successful career,” McMillan said. “Then we monitor them, once we place them in a job, for six months to make sure that everything is going well and that they are on a path toward long-term employment.”
“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.