CHICAGO (CBS) — For more than two decades, a Chicago group has been working to help troubled kids, and the approach it takes is all about cars.
CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield says these people are all Someone You Should Know.READ MORE: Suspect Awaits Extradition For 1992 Cold Case Murder of Helen Cardwell
“Young men are only interested in two things, and that’s young girls and old cars. And we’re in the car business,” said Alex Levesque, founder and driving force behind AMG, the Automove Mentoring Group, located in Bedford Park.
“AMG is proactive against gang violence,” he said. “Chicago has the largest gang population in the country.”
In an effort to combat juvenile violence AMG volunteers have been recruiting gang members off the streets.
“People want to ignore them, and they think that it’s just going to go away, and it’s not going to go away,” Levesque said. “We take them into this large warehouse, and we train them how to restore classic cars from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.”
He created AMG 24 years ago, and since then not a single member of the mentoring group ever returned to their former life.READ MORE: Grub Bug Treatment Will Delay Baseball And Softball Season At 2 Chicago Parks
Former gang member Quantrell Haywood is one of 300 young men Levesque has mentored. He’s been at AMG for two years.
“I’ve always had something of an interest in cars. I came here and Alex gave me a chance,” Haywood said. “I don’t feel safe anywhere, but when I come here, I know it’s safe now.”
Ten-year-old Reese Price has been building model cars as he begins to work his way thru AMG.
“I don’t know what I’d do without cars,” he said. “I love what I’m doing.”
AMG volunteer Samuel Johnson said “you’ve got to start somewhere, and if we can start trying to mentor these kids, and get them going in the right direction, … I think it’s a great start.”
Levesque said, “We have to be able to find a way to recycle these human beings, and we just use cars to do it. It’s where my heart is. It’s what i must do.”
“I really think about things a lot different now,” Haywood said.MORE NEWS: Police Task Force Arrests Carjacking Suspect Hour After Vehicle Was Stolen In Englewood
“They need us more now than ever before,” Levesque said.