The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis will triple the size of its planned Community Empowerment Center of Ferguson, which the agency will build on the site of the burned-down QuikTrip convenience store in Ferguson, it announced on Monday, March 14. The Urban League has received three new donations, totaling $2.15 million, which now bring the project’s overall funding to more than $3 million.
The QuikTrip Corporation donated the property, at 9420 W. Florissant Avenue, after it was destroyed during the unrest following Michael Brown Jr.’s shooting death by then-Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 20145. The center is scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.
At a press conference, Urban League officials praised the new donors: St. Louis County government ($1 million in direct funding for the building from tax credits), the Salvation Army, and TIAA Direct, a St. Louis financial services firm ($300,000).
With the additional funds, the Urban League has now updated the building design to make it a two-story facility, growing from its original 4,000-square-foot, one-story plan to 13,000 square feet. Drawings of the expanded building were unveiled.
“We are extremely grateful for the tremendous generosity of these three partners who have stepped up to make this expansion possible,” said Michael P. McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. “This extraordinary display of community spirit will allow us to serve even more North County residents and strengthen our ability to improve the quality of life for our neighbors.”
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said, “This center is a significant part of the continued resurgence of Ferguson, and St. Louis County is proud to be a major contributor to this effort.”
When completed, the new facility will house the Urban League’s “Save Our Sons” workforce program, which will provide job training and placement services for up to 500 African Americans and other young men in Ferguson and North St. Louis County over the next two years.
In addition to The Salvation Army, it also initially will have offices for Provident, Better Family Life, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and University of Missouri-Extension.
“Out of the ashes at this location,” The Salvation Army will provide help with after school tutoring, financial assistance for rent and utilities, and emotional and spiritual care for individuals reentering society after incarceration, said Lt. Colonel Lonneal Richardson, The Salvation Army Midland Divisional Commander. Its Pathway to Hope program, which helps families break free of poverty, will also be part of the center, he said.
“These are just some of the services desperately needed in North St. Louis County,” Richardson said.
McMillan has said that Michael Johnson, a QuikTrip board director, called him days after the QuikTrip burned asking what they could do. In the Urban League’s conversations with community members, particularly young men, they expressed that they want jobs, McMillan said.
In the Save Our Sons four-week job-training program, participants learn everything from public speaking and team-building to emergency financial preparation and health care.
Several businesses and groups, including those from Emerson, Ameren, Civic Progress, Regional Business Council, and Gateway Rivers Greenway, have already pledged their support to the program.
Kwame Building Group, an employ-owned local company, will be the construction management group. Joshua Randall, president of Kwame, said that McMillan has set a goal that this project be built with 100 percent minority workforce and minority business enterprises (MBEs).
“It is difficult for him to move forward building a project that is set with a mission of helping African-American men find jobs and not give the opportunity to African Americans to build the project,” Randall said. “Our role is to make sure that we accomplish that goal.”