LANSING, Mich. — The Mikey 23 Foundation is helping young people in the Lansing community learn trade skills by helping to restore old houses that would have been torn down.
“We teach them roofing, windows, doors, trim, and everything that has to do with the structure of a house,” founder Michael McKissic said.
The foundation is named after his son Michael McKissic II, who was a victim of gun violence in 2015. Billboards are still posted around Lansing encouraging anyone with information on Mikey's death to speak up.
“Our family knew that we were going to keep his memory alive, so we started the foundation in his name. My name is Michael, his name was Michael also too, but we call him Mikey and he was 23 when he was murdered," McKissic said.
The foundation is an apprenticeship program with the state of Michigan. Anyone 18 and up can join, but McKissic says right now there is a waiting list.
Corey Morris is Mikey's brother and has been a part of the foundation since the beginning. The family has a construction company called McKissic Construction and Morris says he's been learning these skills since he could pick up a hammer.
“I’m seeing what I finished with my hands and I’m like,'I built that.' We did this deck. Stuff I can’t see and after I finish then I’m like, 'I didn’t know it was going to turn out like that.' It makes me feel good,” Morris said.
He says seeing his brother's mural and name everywhere is bittersweet.
"I don't want to see my brother on a wall like that. I don't want to be famous that type of way. It's there. It's a piece in our city. It's always going to be there. People are going to look by and say who is that. Oh, that's Mikey. He has a building downtown so that's big," Morris said.
This is Rico Stewart's third year with the apprenticeship program. He says he saw Morris and his father doing work and it encouraged him to join in.
“I was a sports player. I thought I would be in the NBA or doing something else but this is different. It’s just as fun as playing basketball,” Stewart said. “I can go anywhere in the world and I can build stuff with these skills that I’ve learned.”
For 22-year-old Alston Coward, the Mikey 23 Foundation helped him turn his life around.
“I was locked up and, when I got out, Mike was there for me. He’s been there every step of the way. And I really appreciate that. But he does that for all the youth not just me,” Coward said.
“Never give up, always keep your head straight, and just know there’s always someone out there to help you," he added.
The Mikey 23 Foundation also works with kids. McKissic says right now he's helping kids who are 8 to 11 years old.
“They work on the weekend. Working with the kids on the weekend. If we as a community don’t give them something to do then the streets will give them something to do. So we take them in. We teach them how to paint the minor stuff, but we still pay them,” McKissic said.
The foundation is renovating a house that will be a transition home for women released from prison.
“I’m an ex-felon right. Being an ex-felon I was blessed to come home. I had a family to come home to,” McKissic said. “Our society looks down upon people who are coming out of the system. Everybody makes mistakes. I mean everybody, from the highest politician all the way down we all make mistakes and so therefore I want to embrace them.”
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