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Civic Progress donates more than $600,000 to programs

Civic Progress donated $614,000 to programs working mainly in the North St. Louis community to improve lives, the organization’s leaders announced at a press conference held today at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ north office.

“These organizations typify the commitment and vision our community needs to advance the priorities identified by the Ferguson Commission to drive economic growth and collaboration in the St. Louis region and make a tangible difference in people’s lives,” said George Paz, president of Civic Progress and chairman of Express Scripts.

Civic Progress is an organization of top executives from the largest companies in the St. Louis area. The donations are part of its larger commitment to investing $2 million over the next four years in organizations that are working on recommendations from the Ferguson Commission’s Forward Through Ferguson report.

The Urban League received $100,000 for its Community Empowerment Center, which is currently under construction at the former QuikTrip site in Ferguson. This donation brings Civic Progress' total investment in this project to $245,000.

“This building, like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, will serve as a beacon of hope to Ferguson residents in the aftermath of the crisis,” said Linda Harris, senior vice president of administration and compliance, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

The center will house the Save Our Sons employment program, which has already helped more than 200 men find jobs, she said. It will also offer services from the Salvation Army, Provident, Better Family Life, the University of Missouri Extension and the Lutheran Church of Missouri- Synod.

Better Family Life also received $100,000 for its community outreach efforts to transform at-risk individuals and reclaim high-crime neighborhoods.

“We believe the social service industry is in dire need of a paradigm shift,” said James Clark, vice president of community outreach, Better Family Life.

The most important piece of this shift is the role of the outreach worker, who “shows up on the front porches,” of the homes that need services most, he said. Six men – which Clark called “warriors” – attended the press conference in their black polo shirt uniforms.

They are part of the Better Family Life Neighborhood Alliance, which when brought to scale will place 50 Outreach Workers and 25 Case Managers in position to serve individuals and families residing in neighborhoods under social direst, he said.

“Too many children live in hellacious conditions that they call home,” he said.

The outreach team is responsible for 723 families seeking services from Better Family Life, when they normally would not have, he said.

 “This model will bring immediate and long-term stability in our more challenged neighborhoods,” he said. “It will address the most pressing need for resolve in the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is the escalating culture of crime and violence."

University of Missouri — St. Louis received $164,000 for its School Leadership for Innovation and Design Master’s degree and certification program, which helps to transform schools by improving teaching and student learning. Over the past few years, UMSL faculty members have worked with community leaders and school administrators to develop a new leadership program, said Dr. James Shuls, assistant professor educational leadership and policy studies at UMSL.

“The goal has always been to help build a bench of school leaders who will be change-agents in their schools and the community,” Shuls said. “We thank Civic Progress for joining us in this mission.”

In tandem, Civic Progress gave $100,000 to Riverview Gardens School District and $50,000 to Ferguson-Florissant School District to fund fellowships in UMSL’s master’s degree and certification program.

STL Youth Jobs received  $100,000 to fund employment for 40 at-risk youth this summer.

 “As youth unemployment is higher than any other working-age group, this lack of connectedness to employment has dire consequences for our region’s young people and our economy,” said Hillary Frey, executive director of STL Youth Jobs. “It is critical that the business community play a leading role in the investment of our future workforce.”

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