FLINT (WJRT) - (01/03/17) - A church in Flint is helping revive the Civic Park neighborhood one house at a time, and they've just secured a major grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation.
The $40,000 grant is for a program to renovate two new houses and train a group of men in a new career along the way. It's being given to the community center connected to Joy Tabernacle Church in Civic Park.
"Some of them have felonies, some of them have tattoos, but they have a work ethic now. Flint has people who are willing to work,” said Pastor Robert McCathern, with Joy Tabernacle Church and the Urban Renaissance Center.
In a Flint neighborhood run down by crime, blight and lack of jobs, McCathern is helping create big opportunities in Civic Park.
He started Joy Tabernacle Church a decade ago and since then has helped hundreds of people, most effectively through mentoring and job creation.
The $40,000 grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation has made this latest project possible.
Two homes are being completely renovated - one for a family that's successfully gone through a church social or spiritual program. The other home is a place for five men to learn the construction business.
"What our hope is to be able to train them on some of the things they don't know and to further take some of the things they do know to another level,” said Aaron Dunigan, the project manager for the construction crew.
Dunigan is a Joy Tabernacle success story himself. He's now a mentor to the five men, teaching them skills as they renovate the home - skills like removing carpet, buffing floors, building walls, plumbing and painting. Some of the men will live here and there will be space for more.
"This is kind of like a bump start to say, 'You can stay here and save your money as you start to realize what you want to do with your life,'” Dunigan said.
"I ain't going to lie, I was actually excited last night, I just couldn't sleep because I wanted to get up and work,” said Steve Warren, part of the construction crew.
Warren has experienced a lot in his life already – he went through the criminal justice system at a young age. He says it's not easy growing up in Flint, surrounded by crime and drugs.
"You don't necessarily have to look for trouble for trouble to find you. And it's all about when the trouble finds you, which way you want to go. Feed into the negativity or just walk away. And I'd rather just walk away,” Warren said.
The 26 year old has already trained to be a mechanic and now wants to learn construction, being part of the crew.
"I’m trying to get a long-term career, that's what I want,” he said.
Teaching people a trade and providing housing, McCathern and Joy Tabernacle is taking another step toward bringing the historic Civic Park neighborhood back to its former glory.
"We are making a difference,” he said.