VANDEVENTER—More than 30 volunteers gathered in north St. Louis to be a part of the Love the Lou community development project in the Vandeventer neighborhood.
Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Lucas Rouggly, moved to the Vandeventer neighborhood eight years ago on the 4100 block of Enright Avenue. He said his organization wants to improve areas in north St. Louis.
Family and friends of Rouggly offered help whenever they could in developing the community he lived in. Over time, that core group of people grew, prompting him to organize and form Love the Lou.
Partnering with other local outreach programs like Grace Church in Maryland Heights helped Rouggly and his organization obtain the property on Enright. The church bought the abandoned home and donated it to Love the Lou.
Block captain, Sharon Richmond has lived on Enright Avenue for over 20 years and says she is excited about the projects that Love the Lou has contributed to her community. She has witnessed the non-profit invest in the people in her neighborhood. She believes Rouggly’s youth outreach program has kept many of the kids in the neighborhood out of trouble by providing them with summer jobs.
According to Rouggly, once this house is completed, his goal is to do a rent-to-own with a neighbor who lives on his block.
“If the potential of gentrification is happening, this is my way of fighting it, by rehabbing the community and keeping the residents in it and not bring in outside people,” said Rouggly.
Rouggly noticed many north side communities were being skipped over when it came to development in the city. He watched city officials fail at connecting with underdeveloped neighborhoods. In his opinion, they weren’t trying to gain a better understanding of what was needed and get resources to help those areas become thriving communities.
“Love the Lou has helped me and many of my neighbors fix up our houses. They helped repave my sidewalk and they rehabbed my neighbor’s bathroom,” said Richmond.
“I think everybody in St. Louis would agree that this area has the most potential. St. Louis City has been notorious for focusing on downtown, the central corridor, and the south side,” said Rouggly.
He adds this type of treatment is an injustice towards those who live in north St. Louis, “North siders have had very little focus.”
However, volunteers and Rouggly did not let the harsh reality discourage them from the bigger picture. They came ready to do the work.
Before breaking off into groups, Rouggly expressed his thanks to the volunteers. He shared his admiration towards them in not being afraid to get dirty and do the heavy lifting.
The eagerness to give back to a much needed block was a shared thought amongst the volunteers.
Richmond says she has a sense of pride in her community now, because they are valued and the work that is being done proves that.
“It’s really become about taking the momentum of these people who want to do good and giving them an outlet in the city where they can make the biggest impact,” said Rouggly.
Rouggly believes his program can help steer some racial reconciliation in the city by helping bring individuals together from all different backgrounds to learn how to live together without fear or misconceptions of one another. He believes Enright Avenue is an ideal place to start the healing.
“Yes there are a lot of physical projects that need to be done, but our heartbeat is helping people build relationships with each other,” said Rouggly.