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FLINT, MI – The Ruth Mott Foundation announced that a Flint man who is making strides with a community program focused on helping local youth gain job skills has been chosen as the winner of the inaugural Ruth Mott Foundation Leadership Award.
Greg Gaines, 68, is about to embark on his 27th year of leading the celebrated teen employment program, Mr. Gaines Gardening Program PLUS, which was renamed after Gaines last year to honor his dedication to mentoring young people and teaching them important life skills.
Gaines was chosen from a pool of 49 individuals who were nominated by community members for their outstanding work in Flint. The Ruth Mott Foundation launched the new Leadership Award program this year to recognize an individual working to make a difference in the lives of Flint residents and advancing one or more of the Foundation’s priorities: Youth, Safety, Economic Opportunity, Neighborhoods, or Flint Water.
“It is so fitting that Greg Gaines is the first honoree of this award,” said Harriet Kenworthy, vice chair of the Ruth Mott Foundation Board of Trustees and chair of the Leadership Award’s Selection Committee. “Greg has been a positive role model for a tremendous number of young people and he is a phenomenal leader who is building other future leaders in Flint.”
The winner of the Ruth Mott Foundation Leadership Award chooses a nonprofit in Flint to receive $25,000 to advance the winner’s work in the community. Gaines chose Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee County, which operates the Mr. Gaines Gardening Program and will use the funds for the 2017 program.
The Mr. Gaines Gardening Program PLUS (People Learning Useful Stuff) provides Flint teens with job training, culinary skills, personal finance lessons, nutrition information and summer employment. Gaines, who was previously employed by General Motors, has been leading the program since 1990, when it began as the Mr. Rogers summer jobs program.
The Leadership Award Selection Committee members said they were impressed with Gaines’s longevity with the program and his ability to connect with young people in a respectful and genuine way.
“His students come back to Flint. To me, that’s real leadership and that’s building a community,” said Karen Aldridge-Eason, a member of the Leadership Award Selection Committee. “He is always about what is positive in this community.”
The youth leave the 12-week program with the skills needed to obtain a variety of entry-level jobs, and the ability to cook a meal for their family. In addition to timeliness and communication, they learn money handling, salesmanship and food preparation – knowledge that could be applicable in a variety of careers.
Some of the program alumni have come back over the years to work with the program. Others graduate from high school and move on to gainful employment elsewhere.
Over the years, Gaines estimates thousands of young people have been through the program.
“I thank God about this program being in kids’ lives,” Gaines said. “Every fall when it’s over, I hate to see them go because I grow so attached to them—but I know I can’t stand in their way.”
Gaines will be honored by the Ruth Mott Foundation at a ceremony and check presentation in June.
The Ruth Mott Foundation Leadership Award was created to celebrate community leaders who embrace community engagement, develop authentic relationships with Flint residents and who possess leadership qualities that go beyond professional qualifications. The nomination period closed March 17.