Auto mentoring group flooded with calls after FOX 32 special rep - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Auto mentoring group flooded with calls after FOX 32 special report

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

In a FOX 32 special report called "Chicago at the Tipping Point," which aired earlier this month, we looked at possible solutions to the city's violence epidemic, putting some resources on the air and on the web.

After we told our viewers about one man on the South Side is using old cars to save young lives, he received hundreds of calls.

The South Side garage is full of old cars and young men who need work. Bringing the two together is a shop owner with a mission.

"We're not trying to make them all into car-builders. We're not trying to get them all to restore cars. My objective is to use the cars as bait, as candy, to get them in," explains Automotive Mentoring Group's Alex Levesque. "Then, when you get them in, then you start to spoon feed them that life skills, you start to spoon feed them that job readiness, and then they like it."

Alex Levesque is helping young people in jeopardy, whose lives are a little beat up. The idea is not just to build a shiny car, but to turn boys into men, and some young ladies as well. He got a call after our special from a desperate young woman.

"She was like, 'I'm out on the street now and these gang members, they're trying to get me to sell drugs, I don't wanna sell drugs, I like cars, I wanna do things with cars'" Levesque says of his conversation with the girl. "And I said, ‘okay fine, don't cry, we can resolve that.' That's what we do, we build cars and we build character. So come on, let's try to work that out, so she's actually here with us now."

"He pretty much just opened the doors and told me go ahead get down, get dirty, show me what you got," 27-year-old Victor Leon says of Levesque.

Victor Leon was already on a good path, studying auto mechanics at Morton College. But for others, working here is a second chance after a bad mistake.

"I went to prison early, at 17 years old, and it just like changed my whole perception about life," 25-year-old Ronald Davis says. "I wanted to do something with my life."

"The reality of it is, 90 percent of the people we deal with, they've never worked before," Levesque explains. "If you never had a job before you don't know what that prospective employer is looking for. So that's what we do. We are here to show you how to be on time and how to sign in and how to sign out."

Levesque looks for recruits on the streets. He says some of the gang members he deals with are used to being the boss in the drug trade, but he lays down the law.

"We supply them with these uniforms, they get dark blue pants and light blue shirts with the logo on the back and a simple thing like that makes a guy stand up really really straight," he continues.

"I'm hoping at one point I could open my own shop, be able to provide, you know, for my family and everything, I've got a small daughter and everything," Leon says.

"My ultimate goal is to have my own repair shop," Ronald Davis tells FOX 32 News. "So this is just a stepping stone."

"Everybody needs a second chance on life, if you haven't, if you messed up your first chance.

It's a good thing to learn, you know, best thing to do is to keep you out of trouble," 28-year-old Stephen Lewis adds.

Alex Levesque says most of his graduates do end up with jobs. His garage makes some money restoring cars, but it's a non-profit business and he relies on donated cars, tools and money.

If you can help, or if you needhelp, call Alex Levesque: 773.563.0034; Facebook: http://on.fb.me/17XAden; YouTube: http://bit.ly/17QXv7k

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