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InnerCity Weightlifting 

InnerCity Weightlifting and The Lynch Foundation sought to break the cycle of urban violence by giving the city’s most at-risk youth a realistic alternative to crime and violence.

The Story

In Boston, 70% of gun violence and 50% of homicides are caused by 1% of the city’s youth. Simply put, if you’re a young person living in one of the city’s gang-ridden neighborhoods, the numbers are stacked against you. Jon Feinman worked out a plan to help change that, and it involved working out. Four years ago, he started InnerCity Weightlifting, a roving gym that gave these at-risk youths what they need most, which wasn’t a lecture or sympathy, but simply a chance to prove themselves through means other than violence and crime.

The Partnership

The Lynch Foundation has been with InnerCity Weightlifting from the beginning, and used their resources and connections to help the program increase its funding from $75k to $650k, as well as set up a permanent location in Dorchester.

The Connections

InnerCity Weightlifting wanted to get young people into the gym and keep them there, and with a 96% retention rate, they’ve been successful in that regards. But providing an alternative to the streets was just the first step. Once there, students can begin to realize other opportunities they previously thought were impossible--finishing school, getting a job, even leaving a gang, which in turn makes them a positive role model for their peers.

Though still in its early stages, InnerCity Weightlifting has already received awards from Social Innovation Forum, Social Venture Partners, Year Up, Good Sports, Babson College, and the Boston Celtics, was a finalist for the 2012 Massachusetts, Nonprofit Network Young Professional Award, and was a semi-finalist for the 2012 Echoing Green Award.

But more important than the recognition are the lives affected. InnerCity Weightlifting has been able to hire 4 students to help run the gym and has connected over 50 more to job opportunities. And now that the program’s students are leading training sessions for paying, corporate clients, InnerCity Weightlifting is taking the first steps to becoming self-sufficient and replicating its model in other cities.

This, of course, is welcome news to The Lynch Foundation. Because as much as the Foundation enjoys helping great ideas take off, they love seeing a innovative and impactful program flourish on its own.