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St. Paul Church of God in Christ partners with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition

Elder Kevin Ford

If you are serious about wanting a job or a new trade, then the Rainbow PUSH Coalition is the place you want to be on Saturday, May 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 930 E. 50th St. Learn about the entry-level skills that are key to becoming a plumber, a pipefitter, an electrician, a bricklayer and more.

In partnership with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Elder Kevin Anthony Ford, pastor of St. Paul Church of God in Christ and president of the St. Paul Community Development Ministries, will be hosting a skilled, construction trade testing event. He will explain the qualifications needed to enter this program and to enroll in the union construction apprenticeships.

Those interested will need to bring their driver’s license, birth certificate, Social Security card, high school diploma or GED, and must be able to pass a drug screening and a basic math and reading test. The class will continue every Saturday until June 11 at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

For the past 22 years, Elder Ford has operated this construction apprenticeship program.

“To date, we have had 227 programs, but we could have done far more if we had proper funding. We are proud to say that we have put 227 people into the electricians, pipefitters, plumbers, riggers and cross heating and air insulators jobs. We have put African Americans in those trades, and we’re looking to get our class started on Monday, June 27. This is critical because we don’t want to lose any funding. We need African-American men and women, who have a passion for the construction industry to come forth now.”

Elder Ford is looking for those interested in enrolling in an entry program for electricians, cement finishers and cross heating and air insulators for this cycle. He will then move into the other apprenticeships.

“The doors are open, and we’re ready to go,” he said. His program is located at 4550 S. Wabash Ave. All fees are waived, and his program is funded by the State of Illinois, Polk Brothers Foundation and other groups. “Just bring yourself with the intent to enter into the skill crafts, and we got the rest.”

When asked why it is so important to enter the construction industry, Elder Ford replied, “It is a lucrative career. It is a critical essential many young folks are thinking about, like benefit packages, pensions, medical—not only for you, but for your family—and one of the greatest assets is to be able to afford a mortgage and have sustainability, economic viability and knowing with a certainty that you will have a career that will take you through for the less of your life,” he said.

When asked about one of his successes, Elder Ford said there were a number of men whose lives have been marred by a conviction and subsequent incarceration.

“This is not an ex-felon program. This is a program for brothers and sisters irrespective of where you come from to come on in. If you have taken care of those matters in your past and you’re ready to move forward, this program is for you. Don’t worry about your past. Let us come together. We can help you out. If you’ve had a run-in in your past or you didn’t, the doors are open for this opportunity. The unions are waiting. This is the time for brothers and sisters who have that passion to come on in, so we can get you ready for the next cycle.”

Elder Ford added, “What happened in the past is between you, the Lord and the judge. You’re either going to carry that moniker of ex-offender for the rest of your life, or you are going to carry that moniker of contributor. God has wiped that slate clean. He is a contributor.”

Referring to one of his students, who is an ex-felon, Elder Ford said, “He’s moved on with his life, and he no longer carries that connotation of ex-offender. That ‘X’ on your back can be removed. You have to have the internal fortitude to say no more.”

One of his students served time in prison, but after joining Elder Ford’s program, he is now making more than $110,000 a year. “He just purchased a home. He is sending his kids to college, and he is now a deacon in my church. He is on three of our non-profit boards. He is excelling in his life. Many are buying apartment buildings, opening businesses. We need our brothers and sisters to step up and join our program.

“It is time in the city of Chicago that we see African Americans doing the curb work, doing the electrical work, doing the work that is so bountiful in this region,” Elder Ford said.

St. Paul Church of God in Christ
St. Paul Church of God in Christ

Elder Ford was the successor of the St. Paul Church of God in Christ when his father, Bishop Charles Mason Ford, who was the successor when his father, Bishop Louis Ford, passed. St. Paul began in 1936 and started construction in 1945. Prior to that, his church was housed in the oldest house in Chicago, which he is currently in the midst of renaming to the Bishop Louis H. Ford Clark House in the Prairie District. He calls the oldest house, the “House of Peace.”

His grandfather sold the 186-year-old house, which survived the Great Fire, to the city of Chicago for about $200,000. “I grew up in that house,” Elder Ford reflected. “That house has to reflect the history of how Black people cared and loved it; kept the lawns, kept the property beautiful. I believe that when our young folks understand that we are some of the greatest builders and preservationists, they will begin to recognize that their homes, their community are important to maintain.”

He reflected on the times when church members cooked dinners in the oldest house in Chicago for fundraisers to build a new church. That house bubbled with soul, but 40 years later, it has lost its flavor. It does not reflect the history of the Black community and the love that was bestowed upon it.

“The souls that came through that house—the poor, the rich and many who came to receive the Holy Ghost and those coming for educational information. It was a living, breathing embodiment of the Black community,” Elder Ford said.

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