Hot rods get gang members off street

August 18, 2010 (CHICAGO)

For 20 years, Le Vesque has turned gang members into hot rod builders at a small warehouse on the Southwest Side. There, discarded vehicles become dream cares.

"Simply put what we're trying to do is ... no one wants to be bothered with all this gang violence and all these gangs that are going on. So, I'm simply recruiting them off the street and trying to teach them the art of automobile restoration and hot rod building," said LeVesque, founder, Automotive Mentoring Group.

A 1949 Buick four-door convertible looks like a wreck right now, but soon it will be restored by LeVesque's recruits, who range in age from the early teens to grown men. All are there to change their lives.

"Sometimes they just need a father figure. Somebody to just spend some time with them one on one to talk to them about the issues they have in their lives," said LeVesque.

Terrill Kirk came here 15 years ago as a recruit. Now he's an instructor.

"I was taking the wrong course at age 19 and, you know, he took me under his wing," said Terrill Kirk, teacher at Automotive Mentoring Group. "Absolutely."

"Basically I drive around the neighborhoods in these hot rod trucks and cars and I recruit them right off the street. Talk to them about automobile restoration and changing their lives," said Alex LeVesque.

LeVesque uses all his profits from the hot rod business to fund the program. He can be reached at 773 563-0034.

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