FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Growing through mowing and more. Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center, a nonprofit in southeast Fort Wayne, runs MVP Landscaping. The business employs teenagers and young adults, teaching them a work ethic and social skills as they work to beautify neighborhoods.
“It’s nice to have a job that’s kind of like a family,” said Ben Caro, one of the teenagers employed with MVP. The business is based in the Mount Vernon Park neighborhood behind Bridge of Grace. “We have a lot of blighted properties here and a lot of vacant lots,” said Bridge of Grace Founder and CEO Javier Mondragon. “We started to purchase some but once you purchase them you have to maintain them. We also knew that youth needed employment. So we saw both fitting together.”
“I’m building work ethic skills and communicating with other people, you know typical stuff that you would need for any job,” said Caro.
MVP is short for Mount Vernon Park. It’s been in operation for only a couple years. Landscaper Gentel McGhee is in charge of the staff. “I think the work we’re doing with youth is awesome. I grew up in this neighborhood and it needs something like this,” said McGhee. “We’re not just cutting grass or mowing lawns, this is an opportunity for them to take something and actually be something in life.”
Rena Bradley helped Bridge of Grace and MVP work to bring the teenagers on board. “This is like a community-to-career pipeline. We partner them with mentors both inside our organization and outside so that they can begin to achieve their own visions and dreams and goals and passions beyond landscaping.”
“During a listening effort with Mount Vernon Park residents, we learned their main concerns were neighborhood safety, beautification, lack of mentorship and leadership for youth, and opportunities for gainful employment,” said Mondragon. “This work with youth helps us produce indigenous leaders while increasing the value of Mount Vernon Park with a self-sustaining enterprise.”
Initially the target area for MVP was only southeast Fort Wayne, but it has branched outside of Allen County. “We have grown to two different crews,” said Mondragon. “They do work anywhere in Fort Wayne and even Huntington now.”
To help meet the financial needs that come with branching out, MVP will hold a virtual fundraiser. “On Friday, April 23 we will hold an event to raise funds. Our goal is $55,000 to be able to purchase the equipment we need and to be able to have more support to hire more youth.,” said Mondragon.
The Bridge of Grace online fundraiser is called Spring Forward: A Day of Giving & Momentum. Funds raised will benefit MVP Landscaping.