St. Louis man on mission to clean up abandoned church to provide safe haven for kids

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ST. LOUIS - Giving kids a chance at a healthy and bright future.  That’s the mission and goal of a local man who wants to clean up some of St. Louis’ most run-down neighborhoods and give youth a safe haven.

The mission is part of the Sankofa Unity St. Louis and 1,000 T.H.U.G.S, two non-profit organizations working to get kids off the streets and into a place where they can get away from violence and grow up in a safer environment.

“My dream was to mentor over a 1,000 people that have a thug mentality and get them to start thinking that it’s not the thug mentality that’s in you,” organizer and president, Darren Seals. “So, THUGS means True Help Under God’s Salvation, so all of my friends who were in that ‘game’ that are still alive, I got them to get out the ‘game’.

Seals is currently working to rehab and remodel The Rose Hill Baptist Church on Emma Avenue that was left abandoned about three years ago.

The sanctuary used to be a safe haven for Seals back when he was growing up

“I was doing wrong things,” he said, “so one day I woke up and walked through that door came down the aisle and dropped my bulletproof vest at the altar because I was tired and fed up every time I looked around and one of my friends was dying and I was part of the destruction.”

Seals said that he saw an opportunity to clean up the church and find a way give back.

“I finally got a spot where kids can start having a safe haven,” Seals said as he walked through the church.

He plans to have a room for kids to do homework in, another for them to enjoy playing video games, or patriciate in recreational sports. A few other rooms will be dedicated to teaching hands-on trade like drywalling.

And Seals isn’t alone in making the change.

“My dream is to save however many souls as I can and get as many people off the streets and have them see that we care,” said Eric Thompson, vice president of Sankofa.

The organizations are already proving success with their efforts.

16-year-old volunteer Andrew Brinkley said that he spent some time in juvenile detention but with Seals’ guidance he quickly found the path to making a better life for himself and is joining the efforts to help rehab the church.

“This is a good way where we are trying to proceed, exceed and prevail to make this place beautiful, a place where people don’t have to hurt anybody because violence is not the answer,” said Brinkley.

The organizations have a long way to go and need your help with the rehab. Their goal is to reach $100,000.

To donate visit GOFUNDME.

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