ST. LOUIS – There’s a hidden side to a program that cleans up troubled St. Louis neighborhoods. Debris from torn down abandoned homes is creating good paying jobs and turning trash into treasure.
Bricks from Operation Clean Sweep were dumped in a vacant lot on the north side. Until recently, they would be destined for a landfill. But there’s money in those 100-year-old bricks. Now, they are being stacked and sold by local folks who are getting a nice return on their efforts.
Operation Clean Sweep was in full swing this past Saturday, as volunteers took down abandoned and dangerous homes and cleaned up overgrown lots. When the dust cleared, the bricks were dropped at the vacant lot. That’s where folks have been working hard.
“This is very important because some opportunities I don’t have because I’m a new parolee,” said Herbert Bowens, a brick stacker.
The men and women who take part earn well over minimum wage. Antwaine Gilbert has five kids to feed and he already works a number of fast food jobs. He said the extra money helps.
“It’s good money for the person who don’t have a job,” Gilbert said.
The project is the brainchild of the folks at Fred Weber Inc. The company and their employees volunteer on Saturdays to demolish the condemned homes. Later, people who need the money stack the bricks.
The bricks are typically sold to builders in southern states like Louisiana.
“We pay by the pallet,” said Tieruse Cox, a foreman at the brick stacking site. “The more pallets you can stack, the more money you can make.”
Fred Weber CEO Doug Weibel is involved because he was inspired by James Clark, the head of Better Family Life.
“North St. Louis has issues, bad issues, and you cannot lift up St. Louis from the top, you have to lift up St. Louis from the bottom, and we’re up here lifting St. Louis from the bottom,” Weibel said.
In the first month, the brick stackers all together earned about $10,000.
“It provides more things for (my kids), I don’t have to take shortcuts, I don’t have to say, ‘you can’t have that,’ now I can give that to them,” Bowens said.
As long as there are bricks to stack, the people working in the vacant plan to keep on stacking and making good money.