Dutchtown neighborhood receives grant to enhance youth programming and engagement

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It’s a community that’s no stranger to violence, but in this south city neighborhood, businesses and community partners are working to improve life. Wednesday, partners announced local organizations would receive more than $100,000 from state. We talked to those impacted and how they feel this money could make a change.

“I stay around the corner from here, so it’s just the best route,” Marvin Murphy said.

Murphy’s a youth counselor at the Thomas Dunn Learning Center in Dutchtown, a center that engages youth and teens in adult education, enrichment arts, and more.

“They learn about community outreach, community engagement, they do field trips to see what else is out there in the region,” Paula Gaertner said.

Gaertner is the executive director of Thomas Dunn Learning Center. She said being able to share this funding with community partners across the neighborhood is a step in the right direction. The center’s one of many Dutchtown organizations targeting teens and now, with the help of funding, those opportunities are expanding.

“We’re the recipient of over $100,000 from the state which we will be giving in its entirety to the employment connection to work with the Dutchtown Community Partnership that is serving youth in our neighborhood down here,” Bridget McDermott Flood explained.

Flood with the Incarnate Word Foundation is also helping with funding. Flood said she wants to ensure this money serves as a wraparound and full-embodied service.

Dutchtown is a neighborhood known for gang violence and drugs, but it’s now turning a corner. For the last few years, the City of St. Louis, neighborhood partners, business owners, and residents have efforted crime reduction tactics. Police data shows crime in Dutchtown has decreased over the last two years and is down 20 percent just this year.

“It’s a neighborhood that’s at a cross-roads, and we wanted to go the right direction,” State Representative Steve Butz said.

To maintain that headway, we’re told the money will be disbursed among different groups. One, in particular, the Dutchtown Opportunity Coalition for Youth (DOCY), plans to hire folks who will go door-to-door recruiting teens for youth programming in the neighborhood.

“It’s important because we’ve had the missing piece of an organization or group to be actually out on the street recruiting youth to the programs. Exposing them to other organizations and what those organizations can do for them. Giving them hope for life past 20 years old,” Gaertner said.

On Saturday, Dutchtown is hosting its Summer Vibes street festival. There you can see some of those community organizations at work and enjoy the fun. To learn more, click here.