Joseph Dukes started Dukes Auto Sales and Lawn Care about six years ago. He was already selling cars when he met the former owner of the building on US-10 in Baldwin. He ended up learning how to work on cars, renting the building and eventually buying it.
Now, he’s onto the next adventure starting a non-profit for child mentoring.
Dukes has a few kids work in his shop from time-to-time learning his trades. Several of them were seen working on a mower in his shop Wednesday during Baldwin Community Schools’ spring break.
One of them, Demari Lanier, is a freshmen at Baldwin Community Schools, and is also Joe’s nephew.
Lanier is usually working with his uncle when he’s not playing basketball. He says he’s working on being the next Kobe Bryant. But if that doesn’t pan out he’s got a few more options to consider.
“One of them is to play basketball or be a barber,” says Lanier. “I used to cut my cousin’s hair. If I don’t work now, I almost have to help him or do my own shop.”
Apart from learning when he makes a mistake, Lanier says being at the shop or working for the lawn service has helped him grow up.
He’s hoping the non-profit will allow him to pay the kids for training and experience working in his shop or doing lawn care during the summer months.
“That way, they will be more anxious to learn when they’re getting paid instead of someone trying to tell them what to do for free,” Dukes says.
Dukes says giving them experience in labor jobs will prepare them for any career path they choose to take while also teaching them valuable life skills such as time management, respect and discipline.
“After working in lawn care there’s nothing that they can’t do,” he says. “That’s part of the program, is trying to teach them how to to become self-sufficient, be their own boss. Teaching them we’ll have programs where they can start doing whatever they’re interest is in. They can start testing for a license like mechanic license or builders license or whatever they like to do.”
Dukes has big plans for the non-profit, which is in the early stages of filing as a 501(c) 3. He wants to take it beyond Lake County so that kids across the country learn how to work hard and learn lessons that will take them through life.
“There is hope, and these young ones, some people just wash them off because of how they look or how they dress or just their actions,” Dukes says. “But there is a human being inside of them, so just give them a chance.”