Jerry's Story: Generational Impact
Jerry joined our 2018 Winter JLT session + has proved himself a reliable + dedicated worker + a loved member of the Mission: St. Louis family. I first met Jerry while walking through the halls of Mission: St. Louis. At that time, Jerry had just started his internship here as a custodian + was working his way through our Job & Leadership Training program. I watched as he diligently + happily went about his work cleaning the floors, fixing things around the office + setting up for various events around our building. For a while, all that was exchanged between us were niceties + small talk. Upon graduation I had gotten to know Jerry a bit better + was introduced to his family. I was pleased to hear that Jerry would be joining us full time as the Mission: St. Louis custodian after graduating.
I sat down with Jerry to ask him about his thoughts on our JLT program + what it has meant to him. I asked him questions about whether or not he enjoyed the program + how/if it has changed him. He proceeded to tell me the story of how he became involved with JLT + what it has meant to him over the past few months.
Upon being released from jail, Jerry had gone through a season of poverty + no luck with finding steady employment. He had looked everywhere but felt that with his background, nobody was willing to give him a chance to prove himself. After applying to many jobs with no luck, his girlfriend brought back one of our JLT flyers. He said he thought she had brought it back as a joke, but said he had taken it to heart.
“Ever since I read that flyer for JLT, I felt like I was a part of it because I knew that you guys would accept me with open arms + that I was going to take that chance. As far as Mission: St. Louis, when I read that flyer man, it touched me to a point to where I wanted nothing more than to take that seriously + get as much as I can out of it + take full advantage of what the people here at Mission: St. Louis + Beyond jobs was offering me. For you guys to take men like me with my background, + their similar backgrounds… I really believe in your slogan ‘changing the solution to poverty.’ I really felt that slogan, because I really believed that that is what they were doing here. It was touching to me + I made it my business to take it seriously.”
After his 8-week training, Jerry has continued to take steps to further his professional development + himself as a person. He enjoys his job here at Mission: St. Louis for the fact that he gets to continue to learn about his position here as a custodian, but says that he loves being here more because of the people. He loves that he is surrounded with people he can grow with + learn from. At Mission: St. Louis we hope to impact men in a way that they can then become leaders for their families + communities in hopes to make a positive generational impact in the fight against poverty. I believe Jerry to be one of these men that will continue to lead by example here in our community. Jerry now has goals of acquiring his license + wants to stay at Mission: St. Louis + hopes to be able to share his story with the many men that walk through our doors that share a similar history.
"I’m not saying I’m going to get comfortable or complacent but I got a lot to learn before I can say I have a dream job in mind, because I’m learning how to deal or how to cope or how to maneuver around people in the work environment. Not saying that I didn’t know how to do that before, but I’m learning things + learning how to do that well. I would love to help people that are in my same situation + maybe that would be my dream. Honestly I would love to help people. I would love to help people sit down one day + get to feeling how I’m feeling right now + be where I am today. Honestly, that would be awesome.”
He has no dreams of moving out of St. Louis or owning a huge house… He simply wants to continue to learn + better himself while making a lasting impact in the city that he calls home.
We believe that change begins with relationship, + that the relationships we build with men like Jerry will continue to bear fruit in our community for years to come.
“I think this generation here in St. Louis City is about violence + drugs, + they want a way out…+ they will work. They will mess up, but they need a hand man. They need a hand + a voice, + I would like to share my story with them.”
Over the past few months a friendship has formed between Jerry + I, + we (I think I speak for the entire office) have had the pleasure of getting to know his story, struggles + dreams. I have listened to Jerry as he has recounted to me the painful memories of losing his twin brother to gun violence when he was a teenager + the heartbreak that occurred when he was arrested, separating him from his son for years. I listened to his personal accounts + also his thoughts on the state of North City. While driving down Dr. Martin Luther King Drive Jerry looked at me + said, “Look at all these abandoned buildings...Martin Luther King street of all streets…No businesses want to move in here because of all these other abandoned buildings + drugs + prostitution. People up here just have no hope in an environment like this.” We drove the rest of the street looking at all the closed businesses, dilapidated houses + used automotive dealerships. When we got to the end of the street I asked Jerry if he thought this area would ever see prosperity. If it would ever turn around. Jerry quickly told me, “Yeah I do. I think that if we can influence the younger generation in a positive way this place could see hope.”
Through relationship we have the opportunity to enter into life with men + families around St. Louis + offer them help + support that can make a lasting impact on the cycle of poverty here in North City. With meaningful work, + steady wages, men are able to help provide for their families + communities with a newfound hope. As these men become leaders throughout our neighborhoods they can set examples for younger generations. This wouldn't be possible without you!