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Dutchtown gets state and private funding supporting youth and entrepreneur programs

Dutchtown’s Neighborhood Innovation Center
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The sun sets on Dutchtown’s Neighborhood Innovation Center on Tuesday in south St. Louis. The organization will receive $50,000 in new state funding.

Programs aimed at helping youth and business development in a St. Louis neighborhood are getting a boost from the state and a foundation.

The Dutchtown Opportunity Coalition for Youth is receiving more than $100,000 from the state. The initiative will help young people connect with educational and social opportunities. The Incarnate Word Foundation is providing $75,000 for the youth program, said Bridget Flood, executive director of the foundation.

“The young people of St. Louis are the future,” Flood said. “And if we want them to be caring, happy, successful adults who reach their full potential, I want to make sure that they get a great education. And I want to make sure that they also have enough to eat and their family has their rent and utilities paid so they don't have to move. It's really a wraparound approach. So it's not just about getting kids into school. It's about kids having safe environments after school.”

The state is also providing $50,000 to the building that houses Dutchtown’s Neighborhood Innovation Center, which helps entrepreneurs in the southeast St. Louis neighborhood.

State Rep. Steve Butz said that the money will help make the building more accessible to people with disabilities. He pointed out that the structure, which used to be a bank, doesn’t have a bathroom on the first floor, and a restroom is only accessible by stairs.

The St. Louis Democrat said if the space is going to be an effective facility for people who have an idea for a micro business, it needs to have easy access to a restroom.

“If you were anybody that had any physical challenges, I don't know how useful it is to have an office space without a bathroom,” Butz said.

He added that the money for the youth program could have a great impact. Butz said the neighborhood has one of the largest concentrations of young people in the entire St. Louis region.

“If we pick up and help some teenage kids, not just finish school, but maybe get some entrepreneurial skills? I mean, these are things that change the course of your life,” Butz said. “It's important to intervene in the troubled teen years, but it's more important that there's lasting benefit to them as individuals and human beings.”

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.