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PPEE: Putting the community to work

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 12/14/2011, 6:02 p.m.

Those who can, just do! No complicated schematics to it.

The folks from People for Political and Economic Empowerment (PPEE) just put people to work, and try to resolve issues from housing to schooling.

The band of brothers-and a few sisters, too-operates out of a storefront office on Thomas Boyland Avenue in Oceanhill-Brownsville, Brooklyn.

"We are getting guys on union-salary jobs," said Wayne Smart, a retired corrections officer who is head of Lockdown Patrol, a PPEE offshoot. "If you have a common goal, you can make things happen."

"A lot of these kids are geniuses, just wasting time on the block, but you can put a goal in their heads where they never had one before," said James Smith, who works with PPEE's Lockdown Patrol.

PPEE's job placement services are free to the city, as members of the small core team put their hands in their own pockets to fund PPEE's variety of programs, from certifications for constructions sites to EMT training.

They cite joint ventures with dozens of companies and agencies, including the Department of Probation, Homeland Security, Human Resources Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With a focus on teaching and informing the community, Smart, Smith, Martin Allen, Julius Wilson and Rannie Flowers, among many others, actually put their boots on the ground. Since 2000, they have been all about the very work of which they speak, from their classrooms, where folks can get a vast array of certifications, to the construction sites where now-qualified men and women can get work and move on up the labor ladder.

"We try to stop people from going through the same trials and tribulations we went through," said Allen, PPEE president. "The whole purpose of PPEE is to try to resurrect our community. The only way to salvage it is with people who want to dedicate their time to try and make a change."

Evolving out of a couple of grassroots organizations, PPEE declares that thousands of people have passed through their doors.

They have five job developers who take recruits through a process of "basic construction skills." They are then placed on construction sites throughout the five boroughs. In 2009, the organization says, over 900 people came through their doors, and hundreds were placed in security jobs and on construction sites. Their office walls are adorned with color photos of dozens upon dozens of folks receiving certificates in City Hall and standing proudly on the steps with elected officials and industry bigwigs.

Flowers, PPEE executive director, said that the flow of folks through the doors is constant. "On average, we get over 1,000 walk-ins a week. New people come in on a daily basis."

"We hold free orientation meetings every Monday," said Wilson, adding that many of those who come are "frustrated, and they have gone through every official channel that they can possibly think of. We like to think of ourselves as the best-kept secret, the office of second chances. We take everybody. We are always ready to identify the individual and build that individual up."

With their company Lockdown Security, Smart has been able to train armed and unarmed security officers in a variety of fields.

"We have the security company and that gives us the opportunity to help the kids who are not in trouble and to give them an income," said Smart. "It's not much, but it makes them independent so they can buy their own sneakers and clothes. We help them get licenses and than they can go anywhere and get job."

For more information on PPEE, call (347) 770-8343.