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Nonprofit rebuilds houses and young lives

Dream Builders 4 Equity is transforming the Hyde Park neighborhood in north St. Louis and serving as a model for closing the racial wealth gap.

ST. LOUIS — Call it Extreme Makeover, the north city edition.

One house in the Hyde Park neighborhood was just put up for sale and to say it was a fixer-upper is an understatement.

"This is all about a vision," explained Michael Woods.

Woods is not really a developer or a contractor but he knows a lot about building lives.

In 2016, he co-founded the nonprofit Dream Builders 4 Equity. It allows high school students, when they're done with their homework, the chance to do construction work.

"They're making $15 an hour," Woods told 5 On Your Side. "Not only are they making $15 an hour, but they're also getting the equity from the sales of the property. We're sharing the profits with them."

Woods, an entrepreneur and author of four books, says he was able to overcome the obstacles of growing up in a low-income neighborhood and he wanted to pay it forward to kids like 15-year-old Malik Lyles.

Credit: KSDK

"I was expecting maybe to see a few houses and then maybe paint a little bit. It's actually been better than what I thought," said Lyles.

"When I came to the program, they welcomed me with open arms," added 19-year-old Chelsea Manuel. "Everybody is loving and caring and they just really care about you and what you want to focus on in your life."

Dream Builders buys dilapidated homes for pennies on the dollar with the goal of both renovating neighborhoods and these kids.

"When I was 15 and 16, I wasn't thinking about any of this was possible," 20-year-old Carvon Ward said.

We first met Ward when he was just 16. He's now a project manager with a degree from Ranken Technical College.

"I'm proud of myself," he said.

Credit: KSDK

Dream Builders has now completed 25 projects with more in the works.

"Our goal is to figure it out here and do it right," said Woods. "We want to be that initial investment here that transforms this neighborhood and then go and do it in other communities."

Giving kids the tools for success. Dream Builders 4 Equity. Restoring houses and hope.

Credit: KSDK

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