CLEVELAND, Ohio — Pulling his silver Mercedes into a gas station near downtown Cleveland, Andrew Brickman came face to face with a loitering teen who wanted to pump Brickman’s gas — for a small fee.
“I can pump my own gas,” replied Brickman, 46, a local developer of luxury townhomes. “But if you want to work for me, here’s my business card. Call me.”
The youth, 16-year-old Charles Linder III, decided to dial the number and see what happened.
So Brickman took a chance too, even picking up the teen from his home near Superior Avenue and East 79th Street and paying him $8 an hour to plant flowers near Brickman’s Little Italy office. Nine months later, Charles and his brother Lonnie are still on the payroll, and doing odd jobs.
It’s a typical Brickman move, say those who know his tireless work to organize Cleveland into a tighter-knit community of true neighbors. And it’s what inspired free-lance writer Brooke Willis to nominate Brickman as a Plain Dealer hero, citing his time spent as an arts patron, board volunteer and business activist.
“He’s a good dude,” agrees Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell, praising Brickman for serving as a mentor to urban youths. “He taught them how to respect work. He taught them how to give back to the community, which is a great thing.”
Conwell, who represents Little Italy as well as Glenville, also complimented Brickman for initiating events like a summer block party that brings residents of both areas together.
“He’s breaking down stereotypes” on both sides and helping Little Italy move past its stigma of not being welcoming to blacks, Conwell said.
Brickman smoothly blends his multitude of outreach efforts with his job as developer of urban townhomes like the 27 Coltman project in Little Italy. Inside his sleek Mayfield Road office, local artists and jewelry-makers display and sell their wares.
He even has a “Charitable Partners” program to entice condo buyers to be good neighbors, offering to match their donations to nonprofit groups in University Circle or Little Italy.
About seven years ago, Brickman was named Jewish Big Brother of the Year — an international honor — for his time spent mentoring a youth from Russia. His little brother is now 26, and they remain in close touch.
“He’s become one of my best friends,” Brickman said. “I’m encouraging my little brother now to become a big brother. There are so many kids waiting.”
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Article courtesy of: cleveland.com
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