Rooftop Revelations: Training youth in trades creates opportunity, path away from gangs, Pastor Brooks says

ROOFTOP REVELATIONS: Day 123 with Pastor Corey Brooks

CHICAGO – Throughout his stay on the rooftop to raise funds to build his Project H.O.O.D. community center, many of Pastor Corey Brooks’ most important supporters have been the working class folks. The most recent supporter was Metropolitan Steel, which donated $100,000 and will provide the in-kind labor needed to erect the structural steel beams for the new center. This company recently completed an Amazon project involving over 25,000 tons of steel, and yet they found the time to support Project H.O.O.D. because they understand the value of creating opportunities in communities with weak social capital. After all, it is through these opportunities that Metropolitan Steel finds its future workers. 

On the 123rd day of his rooftop vigil, the pastor invited the bosses of Metropolitan Steel to a campfire chat: Tim Caballero, president, and Red Stone, vice president. Both men come from a long line of steel and ironworkers. The pastor began the conversation by asking them why they came to the South Side of Chicago. 

“We give to a lot of different charities, but this is the biggest donation we’ve given to anybody,” Caballero said. “We want to donate something at a local level and see our dollars come to work at a local level … And with this leadership center here, I really believe you have the opportunity to influence these people, give them the skills and the opportunity to move forward here.”

Caballero stressed that he believes that the pastor’s neighborhood has so much potential because of three things: physical capability, skills and motivation. He also added that he sees none of the self-defeating negative thinking that dooms so many people.

“We need this center so that we can start teaching people the trades,” the pastor said. “How important is it to our community, especially where the violence is going on, that we have these type of trades available?”

“It’s of the utmost importance,” Stone said. “You know, the trades for me represent hard-working men and women. I mean, that’s just the bottom line. The people that are the best of this country and this city are the blue collar men and women that work in the trades … My dad was an ironworker. My son just got in – he’s 19 now – I’d rather have him go be an ironworker than go to Harvard.”

“We need to get kids from the community involved in the trades,” the pastor said. “We need to get them to become steelworkers. We need to get them to become electrical workers. It’s a great opportunity.”

“Sometimes people just need to get their foot in the door,” Caballero said. “Teaming up with the local unions would be very important … My dad gave me the opportunity to become an ironworker. And then, based on my choices on showing up every day, doing my best for 13 years, and then 13 years ago, we opened Metropolitan Steel.”

“It’s tough work,” Stone added. “Make no mistake about it, it’s tough.”

“You guys have erected some of the best buildings in Chicago and some of the bridges, all that work,” the pastor admired. 

“We do it all,” Stone said. “We do [Chicago Transit Authority] work. We do bridges. We do hospitals. We do retail strips. Even though we are larger now, one thing I’ve always said to Tim, and we’ve always said this, no matter how small that job is, we will do it, and we’ll bid it because we’re not arrogant.”

“When I think about the iron work and the steel working that you guys do, I can think of so many young men who are in gangs that, with this training, could absolutely just radically turn their lives around,” the pastor said. “Do you have guys that work for you that if it wasn’t for the steel work and the iron work that you all do work, that they could possibly be in a bad place?”

“Absolutely,” Caballero answered. “We have certain gentlemen that have been on with us since their first day of iron working. It has been many years now. We just keep them on with some really good hands. So you’re absolutely right. It’s just the opportunity provided to these people who want to do this.”

“Say you got this guy who’s been in a gang all his life, but gets the training, and now he’s at Metropolitan Steel,” the pastor followed up. “Maybe he’s never worked with any other culture or anybody else outside of the neighborhood. How do you help that guy to adapt?”

“I think Tim does a great job mentoring kids,” Stone said of his partner. “He’ll go out to job sites and ask them all the time, ‘Hey guys, how you doing?’ And this is what business owners don’t understand. And this is why—me and him are both blue collar people. You’re successful because it’s your people in the field that do it for you.”

“Absolutely,” the pastor said.

“And Tim and I, we connect with them on a personal level,” Stone said. “We really do truly care how our guys are. If they’re having problems at home, ‘Hey, go take care of home. This job’s going to be here for you.’”

“That’s the reason why I appreciate you guys,” the pastor said. “I can’t wait until we’re able to say, ‘Hey, we got several guys from Project H.O.O.D. who work for Metropolitan Steel, and they’re doing a great job, and they’ve been mentored.’ And we’re able to sit back and see the smiles on the faces and the changes that are brought to the neighborhood. So I want to say thank you for just being a blessing to us.”

Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Rooftop Revelation.

For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.

Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.

Camera by Terrell Allen.

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