Updated: April 23, 2020 06:19 PM
Created: April 23, 2020 05:00 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — You've probably passed it dozens of times without a second thought. It’s a historic church at 1439 Buffalo Road in Rochester. What you didn't know is that lives are changed in that building.
It's the Rochester Construction Training Center, and the founder, Andrew Evans is an ESL Jefferson awards winner.
When passion leads to purpose and purpose leads to action the results are folks like Andrew Evans.
He believed so strongly in his dream of creating a construction training center to serve those with few options, he emptied his savings.
"I used my own personal savings to put this building together," he said. “My wife was mad too!”
His wife is now a believer, just like everyone else who enters Andrew's orbit.
It's appropriate that the building that houses his training center is a reimagined historic church.
The son of a Baptist preacher approaches his mission to change lives with the devotion of a minister's mission to bring the wayward back to faith.
"My trainees learn every skill it takes to build a house," he said smiling. "What we want to do, we want to change their whole attitude."
And teaching them valuable job skills while changing their attitudes changes the very trajectory of their lives.
"Some of them say, ‘Mr. Evans, if I had had these skills before I went to jail, I wouldn't have gone to jail!’”
The former RG&E executive used the skills he learned while rising through the ranks of the energy company to start his own business. But he knew there was more he was meant to do.
"I think training and giving back is my mission," Evans said nodding.
His trainees have ranged from 17 to 55 in the rigorous 90-day program. Expectations are high, and the rules are strict. Among them, trainees must wear a belt.
"If you have saggy pants, you can't do construction,” Evans said. “You can't walk around holding your pants with one hand and a ladder with the other! You need both hands!”
And every task has a purpose, even when trainees don't realize it.
"The first thing they do when they come in, we would tear down this building that the other class has built. That way we're teaching them demo,” he said pointing to a building about the size of a backyard shed.
After the demolition, trainees rebuild it from the ground up, learning about everything from laying the foundation to installing the roof, and much more.
"We teach them how to troubleshoot a furnace," said Evans pointing to a partially dismantled furnace. The trainees also learn how to troubleshoot a water heater as well as basic plumbing.
"We don't promise anybody a job when they finish, but so many contractors have learned about us they say, ‘Do you have anybody that we can hire?’" Evans said smiling.
And with skills, a new attitude and a new job, a life is changed. Evans is making his piece of the world a bit better, one trainee at a time.
"That's why I want to give back and help people,” Evans said. “And think about it, if I help people, I'm really helping the community as well."
Evans is quick to say he doesn't do this alone. His partners, Alonzo Henry and Barbara Grosh are invaluable. But the non-profit is in desperate need of materials and monetary donations to be able to train more Rochesterians. If you'd like to help, click here.
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