‘I Feel Like a New Person’
Westside Works Has Helped Anthony Lewis Make up for Lost Time
Story and Photos by:
At age 63, Anthony Lewis has been around the block a few times. Unfortunately, he’s also been, as he puts it, “on the other side of the street.”
He lost a lot of years – close to 30, in his estimation – “not working, drugging, stealing.” Now, however, he’s making the most of his time, as a laborer at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and as an encourager to people around him.
A Philadelphia native, Anthony visited a sister in Atlanta in 1985. He decided to stay and quickly found work as a delivery driver. But the aforementioned excesses made life “a nightmare,” he says. “Before I knew it, years had gone by. It took me out of the workplace, doing things normal people do.”
Fast-forward to 2014, when Westside Works launched. Anthony saw a TV ad about job opportunities at the future home of the Atlanta Falcons. Shrugging off a bit of initial skepticism, he enrolled with the fourth Construction Ready group and found the experience worthwhile in more ways than one.
“I had been in construction since I was a teenager, and I thought, ‘What could I learn?’” Anthony recalls “But when I got in there, there were people who had never held a hammer, so I was able to help them, and I was also able to refresh my knowledge.”
Anthony landed a job right away with Skyline Forming, a commercial concrete company, and began doing general labor and barricade work. He soon started taking on additional work for Holder Hunt Russell Moody (HHRM, JV), the joint venture that manages the stadium project, and eventually transitioned to HHRM full-time.
Today he oversees trash removal — 10 dumpsters worth each day, consisting of every thing from wood to metal to concrete to cardboard.
One of his proudest moments came when HHRM Project Superintendent Bob Evans recognized his hard work.
“I came in one day and Mr. Evans had this little smile on his face. There’s this safety guy who hangs with him, and he said, ‘Come here.’ And he gave me this paper that said, ‘Anthony Lewis, Employee of the Month.’ And Mr. Evans had been watching, and I saw him walk away with this big smile on his face.”
Employee of the Month is one indication of how Anthony has turned his life around. His impact on others is another.
“I’m enjoying meeting new people and paving the way for others,” he says. “Just recently I was just able to help a young lady. She didn’t want to be in a drug situation and I let her stay at my house, and now she’s home with her family and in school online. When I talked to her, I could hear the joy in her voice. She thanked me, and I thought about that, and I realized that not long ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that for anybody.
“I feel like a new person now.”
The free, four-week Construction Ready at Westside Works program equips low-income residents from Zip Codes 30314 and 30318 with the necessary skills, tools and supports to secure employment in one of Atlanta’s fastest growing industries. It is part of broader efforts by Integrity CDC, WorkSource Atlanta, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, Invest Atlanta and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to provide greater economic and employment opportunities to families in English Avenue, Vine City, Castleberry Hill and Surrounding Neighborhoods.
Since its start in 2014, the Construction Ready program has placed over 450 people into full-time careers with more than 70 construction companies throughout metro Atlanta. Graduation and placement rates consistently exceed 90% and more than 70% of graduates retain employment after 12 months on the job.