Dream Builders 4 Equity: Enriching St. Louis Communities

Envision a world in which all communities have the courage to dream, the skills to build, and the resources to own their future. This is the vision of Dream Builders 4 Equity (DB4E), and it’s becoming a reality. This St. Louis-based nonprofit organization is advancing North City families towards more equitable health outcomes by building economically-sustainable and socially-engaged communities.

DB4E’s team is creating new opportunities for homeownership, jobs for youth and minority contractors, public dialogue about community needs, and providing invaluable proficiencies to St. Louis youth. This holistic, youth-centered model allows participants to dream about and pursue a future they may have never imagined.

The Berges Family Foundation learned of Dream Builders 4 Equity and quickly realized they share the same vision – to empower our underserved youth and make St. Louis a wonderful place to live, work, visit, and invest. They were so moved by what this organization is accomplishing, they gifted DB4E a large grant to further their mission.

Who is DB4E?

Dream Builders 4 Equity provides St. Louis City youth, ages 16–24, with the opportunity to transform themselves and their communities through a unique real estate program. They receive mentorship from successful role models that look like them and develop the skills needed to gain upwardly-mobile, living-wage careers. As students go through the program, they realize the power they have within their communities to make them better places to live as they:

  1. Learn multiple skills for future employment and entrepreneurship
  2. Rehab and sell vacant local properties
  3. Renovate senior citizens’ homes
  4. Earn income at $10-$15/hour
  5. Sell the newly rehabbed properties to first-time homebuyers
  6. Receive a percentage of property sales in scholarship funds
  7. Make additional income from book sales

“Over time, we’re showing students proof of what’s possible. They see that they can make a difference, and they change their outlook on the contributions they can make in their own lives, the lives of their families, and in the communities around them,” said Neal Richardson, DB4E Co-founder and President.

A Real Estate Program with Far-reaching Opportunities

To become a DB4E participant, St. Louis high school principals recommend those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Once in the program, students begin an eight-week Summer Youth Academy where they learn personal, professional, literacy, and financial development. They are also taught on-the-job building and contractor skills by successful St. Louis-area business owners and contractor-partners; those who come from the same neighborhoods and are relatable to the students. This really inspires the kids and helps them see that with hard work, skills, and dedication, they can also be successful.

Since its 501(c)3 status in 2017, the organization has helped 60 students earn close to $250,000 in scholarship funds, wages, and profits from home sales and book sales.

DB4E Book Publishing Program

As part of the DB4E real estate program, youth participants also journal about their experiences throughout the project and produce a book of compilations. This gives them ownership in their stories, provides a productive platform for self-expression and healing, and teaches them the process of being a self-published author. They also learn how to organize a book signing event and sell the books, of which they keep 100% of profits.

Michael Woods, Co-founder and Executive Director explains, “We’re giving our youth the confidence to believe that they can truly achieve anything. The results have been amazing. Participants love the program so much, they don’t want to leave after high school, so now we have experienced college students on our team.”

How the Berges Family Foundation is Impacting DB4E

One of the missions of the Berges Family Foundation is to give underserved kids a real chance for a bright future. We want to see them grow into educated, confident, talented, thriving individuals; those who can overcome adversity, accelerate their own opportunities, and share their successes with others coming up behind them. Dream Builders 4 Equity is doing exactly that.

As soon as we heard about this unique and comprehensive program, we knew we had to help and provided the organization a $200,000 grant. When asked how the funds would impact their program, Woods said, “This is a game-changer for us. It will go toward our newest neighborhood transformation – Hyde Park. We already support 60 students in the program, and now, over the next four years, we can support even more youth employment, housing for those in need, and entrepreneurship.”

DB4E 4-Year Plan: To Transform Hyde Park

As mentioned, Dream Builders 4 Equity’s next goal is to concentrate on rehabbing the Hyde Park neighborhood, investing $4 million by 2025. Richardson said, “We are honored to have the opportunity to employ over 250 youth in partnership with the Hyde Park community and local minority contractors. We will redevelop 25 homes, provide 25 free major home renovations to elders, and support the acceleration of the business community by 2025. By then, we estimate $835,000 to $1 million will be earned through youth employment, scholarships, and book sales.

We hope to work with business and community partners to be able to do more equitable development in our city and make sure that everyone is valued and feels valued. Because that’s when you really see the city change.”

Join Us in Support & Empowerment of St. Louis Youth

The Berges Family Foundation strongly believes in helping our at-risk and under-resourced youth. Advocating for those who have few choices and offering compassion and encouragement can change a family, a neighborhood, a classroom, and a school, and help empower entire communities. Instilling hope in an at-risk youth’s daily life inspires fortitude and confidence in a better future. Please join us in financial and community support of DB4E. Anything you can give – monetary donations, volunteer time, a corporate sponsorship, building/classroom supplies and tools – makes a difference in the lives of these kids.