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Queens Chronicle

New program seeks to give gang members fresh start

Will also offer job interview training, GED prep, resume polishing and more

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Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:00 pm

In an effort to help young men in Southeast Queens, a community plagued with gun violence and other crime, one area resident has started a program that will provide business attire, outreach and job training to active gang members.

Kevin Livingston, 33, who works as a business officer at Carver Federal Savings Bank in Jamaica, has created a program called 100 Suits for 100 Men, because he wants to help gang members turn their lives around, show them there is a better way, and give back to the community he has called home for his entire life.

Clad in a black suit and looking very much like the business professional he is, Livingston, who admits to only having an eighth grade education, has been trying to generate interest in the program by speaking about his plans at the last two Community Board 12 meetings.

After his first announcement in December, he said hadn’t received a single phone from anyone who was interested in participating in the program. But now that he has partnered with several community groups and businesses, he is hopeful that will change.

“I’m not asking for any money,” Livingston said at the CB 12 meeting on Jan. 18. “But if you have a suit, anything, a handkerchief, donate it. Because we are going to teach them to dress for success. Somebody gave me that chance. ... God has put this [idea] inside of me to give back to somebody else. I’m not going to do good unless I reach back and grab somebody and bring them with me.”

The clothing drive started on Jan. 1, and so far Livingston, who was never in a gang himself, has 15 collected suits and recruited 30 interested individuals. He has been able to find the gang members by gaining information about where they hang out from the 103rd Precinct and through his own knowledge of the area.

Not only will the program provide suits, but Brooklyn Law School is going to help them polish their resumes and a senior human resources executive at Carver Bank will be giving them mock interviews. There will also be a GED component and a job fair at the end of the drive.

Workforce 1, New York Business Solutions and Macy’s are also on board, Livingston said. In addition, he is working with a dry cleaner who has agreed to clean the suits for free.

“So, we’re gearing up,” Livingston said. Let’s make it happen. If you can help me, let’s eradicate this gang violence in Southeast Queens because it’s affecting everybody.”

Livingston said his next vision is to do the same type of program for troubled young women, noting that he recently saw a gang of females beating up another young woman on the street.

The dropoff locations for the suit drive are the Sean Elijah Bell Community Center at 107-52 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica and Marvelous Cuts at 132-08 111 Ave., also in Jamaica. For more information, contact Livingston at (347) 472-2519.

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