Flexing their muscles to serve the community
48 volunteers complete massive rehabilitation project in two days
When Jeffrey* got home from school, a gang was waiting for him. They wanted to recruit him, because he was young, strong and smart—and they knew it.
When Lift for Life, an after-school gym for at-risk St. Louis City children, heard that Jeffrey was on the edge of falling into the grips of a gang, they offered to drive him from school to the gym every day.
With more than 85 percent of St. Louis city youth living in high-to-severe concentrations of poverty, Lift for Life stands in the gap, providing services for children who need it most.
And Jeffrey needed it. With free rides from school to the gym, he dedicated himself to lifting, and went on to be a national champion on the USA World Weight Lifting Team and lead a life free of crime.
Stories like Jeffrey’s keep Lift for Life volunteers, like Rob Pence, coming back to the gym. Rob is an equipment operator at Spire, and he also qualified for the XVII Pan American Games in Olympic Weight Lifting and has been volunteering at Lift for Life for seven years.
“It’s not just one story that keeps me going,” Rob said. “It’s honestly seeing the kids smile, ya’ know? They smile, they make you laugh, and that’s why I keep going back.”
The gym needs dedicated volunteers and generous donations to continue serving the more than 212 youth it impacts each week. When Lift for Life told Rob about their needs, he knew where to turn. As an employee at Spire, he started out by asking a couple of guys from his crew. Soon, news spread, and what started out small, turned into a massive rehabilitation project spanning two days with more than 48 volunteers from Spire who used their eight hours of company-paid volunteer time to help out at the gym.
“I was so impressed with everyone who helped. I just asked, and they said, ‘yes.’”
Spire employee finds new passion for serving
One of those 48 Spire volunteers was Antwon Hall, a construction worker at Spire. For him, volunteering at Lift for Life was especially meaningful.
“I went to Lift for Life Academy, the school that works with the gym. I know the gym helps keep kids out of trouble,” Antwon said. “The people there give kids good advice and keep them heading in the right direction.”
Between playing basketball, football and baseball, Antwon didn’t have a lot of spare time in high school, but he made sure to take every college-level course he could, so, when it came time to graduate, he’d be prepared.
“It was really hard to choose between college and entering a trade,” Antwon said. “I went back and forth, but I needed a good, steady job with good benefits because I take care of my mom.”
For Antwon, the work he does every day at Spire is rewarding, and the company’s focus on giving back is another reason why he loves his job. So, when it came time for the Lift for Life Gym project, he signed up.
“My favorite part was suiting up and grinding down the wall so the tuck pointers could come in. By the end of the day, my arms were completely covered in dust,” he said.
Spire volunteers also installed new lighting, worked on the HVAC system, cleaned the kitchen area, landscaped and relocated a meter so the kids could play basketball on the entire court.
And for guys like Antwon, who has a history of filling his schedule to the max, just one day of service wasn’t enough.
“I’m going to start coaching one of the basketball teams at Lift for Life,” Antwon said with a grin. “They asked me if I was interested, and I told them I’d do it.”
*Student name has been changed.