By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]
Kevin Livingston started 100 Suits for 100 Men in 2011 after seeing underprivileged men in his community lack business attire for job interviews. He believed that for those seeking to transition to permanent employment, a suit and a haircut can go a long way in building confidence and making a good impression on the hiring manager.
In 2015, the organization secured nonprofit status and continued to address social inequality through community involvement and activism across the city. Livingston, 38, who was born and raised in southeast Queens, says that the goal is to achieve economic freedom and reduce recidivism rates. Their motto is: “The men walk in one way and walk out another.”
Outside of the Pomonok Houses on July 6, Livingston accepted a check for $750,000 for 100 Suits to create a workforce opportunity program that will span across generations. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who learned about Livingston’s work in the community during the peak of the pandemic, secured the funding from congress.
“I could not go another day without having 100 Suits and their team do more work in our congressional district,” said Congresswoman Meng among community advocates and business owners. “I’m so proud of the work that they are doing to help so many families and we are so excited to launch this youth employment program right here in the heart of my congressional district.”
The one year initiative, “Empower Queens – Workforce and Entrepreneurship Programming”, will create jobs for young people, while also providing workforce development services such as coaching, mentorship and case management from industry experts. Approximately 40 individuals from 16 to 24, living in the Pomonok Houses and across the borough, will be able to participate in the program.
“We need to infuse Pomonok with some hope, with some opportunity and with a way to lift young people to get them to another level,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie, who recalled working with Livingston when he first started 100 Suits over a decade ago. “He came to us with his passion and his energy and his desire to be able to impact people at every level possible.”
Representatives including, Aaron Amborse, Queens Director for Governor Kathy Hochul, Lorraine Chambers Lewis, Executive Director of Long Island Jewish Forest Hills and Suk Kim, President of the Korean American Association of Greater NY, were also in attendance.
“We are going to not only work with our seniors, we are going to target our youth to make sure that they have the resources that they need, the follow up that they need, but more importantly, the respect that they deserve to do what they need to do,” Livingston said during the event. “The passion and drive for our community starts today.”
Isaiah “Leaky Roof” Brown, a basketball player and social media influencer, and his best friend Cheyenne “Windu” Nettleon grew up in Pomonok Houses. They both attended the conference and shared how Lingston helped them take a community initiative they started to the next level.
Last summer they organized a basketball tournament, using their own money and resources, after the Pomonok court was remodeled. After seeing it turn into a success, they envisioned it turning into an annual event, where they can continue to recruit the best players in the city. And after connecting with Livingston this past year, he offered to cover all expenses through his organization so that the tournament can have a wider reach than last year and remain free.
This year’s Leaky Roof Day Tournament will be held on July 29.
Today, 100 Suits has prominent supporters including Colin Kapernick, Steve Harvey, and teams such as the NY Knicks and NY Rangers. But for Livingston, hyperlocal connections in the Queens community remain a priority.
What sets this employment program apart from similar existing ones is Livingston’s vision to “reimagine workforce development” through an emphasis on building relationships and entrepreneurship. He says that he wants to address the desire in youth to create something of their own, whether it’s a business or community program.
“It’s the relationship that’s going to change their trajectory, not the job,” said Livingston in an interview with the Queens Ledger. “Anybody can go out and get a job, but when you’re having a hard time at that job, and you’re struggling between making $17 an hour or going back on the street and making way more, the relationship is what intersects that.”
Livingston says that the employment program will be up and running by the last week of August.
“Young people are the most important investments that we can make for our community,” said Congresswoman Meng. “This will also help boost their confidence, interpersonal communication, and allow them to continue to contribute to our society from right here at home.”