Robert Flexon, president and CEO of Dynegy, announced Friday his company will invest $200,000 in East Side Aligned to specifically help East St. Louis strengthen and improve public safety.
Flexon make the announcement to more than 200 business, philanthropic and civil leaders gathered at New Life Community Church, 1919 State Street.
In 2013, Dynegy donated $25,000 to East side Aligned, a group dedicated to improving the outcomes for young people in the East St. Louis area.
“As a power generation company, we continuously look for ways to improve our environment, impact and safety of our workers and the surrounding communities. Safety is a core value of ours and it always has to come first and you always have to be aware of it,” Flexon said.
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He said the company’s commitment to public safety extends far beyond the fence line of the company’s plants.
“That is why we are pleased to invest in East St. Louis,” Flexon said. The investment from Dynegy will provide staff, support and training for local officers on community-oriented policing.
“That is why we are (giving to) East Side Aligned, to focus on creating a safer community, not just for children and youth, but for everyone who calls this community home. It is only when you feel safe that you can focus on achieving great things,” said Flexon.
Evan Krauss, director of East Side Aligned, said the money will be used for training police officers and to staff a person to coordinate collaboration amongst different police departments in the area.
He said East Side Aligned stakeholders “are incredibly grateful to Dynegy for their continued commitment to East St. Louis and to helping to enhance public safety systems.”
“When children feel safe in their home, schools, they are more likely to succeed. With Dynegy’s investment as well as the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, we will be able to support schools, social service agencies, law enforcement and faith communities in their efforts to reduce violence and crime in the community,” Krauss said.
Last fall, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern announced that the county, in partnership with East Side Aligned, had received a $1 million grant from the Department of Justice to implement a plan to reduce youth violence and victimization. At the church, Debra Moore, an administrator with St. Clair County, announced the plan is on track to be finalized this summer with implementation of the plan to follow quickly.
When children feel safe in their home, schools, they are more likely to succeed. With Dynegy’s investment as well as the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, we will be able to support schools, social service agencies, law enforcement and faith communities in their efforts to reduce violence and crime in the community.
Evan Krauss, director of East Side Aligned
Various speakers talked about the work that is being done that may not be visible yet to the public to change the negatives about East St. Louis into positives. Among those speakers was East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.
“Injustice and inequities continue to engulf our city. Yet, I still have hope ... hope for the people of East St. Louis, Alorton, Washington Park and Centreville. I will continue to work to restore this city.”
Then turning to a 16-year-old East St. Louis High School junior who is taking classes at Southwestern Illinois College while he is in high school, Jackson-Hicks said,”Talking about a product of East St. Louis, talking about our gifts,” she then introduced Montez Holton to the crowd. She said she wished the dual enrollment partnership between East St. Louis Senior High School and SWIC, was in place when she was a student there.
A very lively Montez told the crowd, “ I struggle daily. But, working with a variety of people who show you that they value youth and our voices has helped me get to where I am today.”
“I proudly represent East Side Aligned. When I was a freshman, I got involved with East Side Aligned to help them with their vision of reaching out to young people,” Montez said. When he graduates from high school, he will also have his associates degree from SWIC.
Surveying the crowd and recalling where East Side Aligned was born, Francella Jackson, former chairman of the Illinois division of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, said, “I am very proud that Superintendent (Arthur) Culver and I met and talked about all of the negativity that was being bantered about students and the district. I wanted to focus on what could be done to turn this around,” Jackson said.
“And East Side Aligned evolved. The United Way invested the first $50,000 for East St. Louis,” Jackson said. With emotion in her voice, Jackson said, “It’s overwhelming to see what has been done and what is being done through East Side Aligned.”
Culver, speaking later with a reporter about East Side Aligned, said the idea was to bring the different support services in the area together. Hence, East Side Aligned was created, Culver said.
“Now, everybody is working together in a more iformed way,” he said.