Schlichter, Schnuck Help Lead Initiative to Build Community, Support Entrepreneurs

BBC News World Service brought listeners to St. Louis this past weekend to report on the success of the metro’s Afghan resettlement program. In a segment that aired to millions on Saturday, reporters spoke directly with Arch Grants Founder and Chairman Jerry Schlichter, an executive-level member of the Greater St. Louis, Inc. Chair’s Council.

“Immigrant success in St. Louis shows that rather than taking jobs from people who are needy, it builds opportunity and the vibrancy of a city,” said Schlichter during the interview. “It provides businesses that hire people. It’s a win-win. It helps those people, but it helps the city.”

Announced in January, the initiative was developed by resettlement agency International Institute of St. Louis and a coalition of interfaith leaders. It includes comprehensive support systems for Afghan refugees, including funds to address immediate housing needs, the establishment of an Afghan Chamber of Commerce and newspaper, iPads and cell phones for 200 families, immersive coding classes, and business grants. According to Schlichter, no other city in the U.S. has a program like this. 

At the launch of the initiative, Todd Schnuck, chairman and CEO of Schnuck Markets, Inc. and an executive-level member of the Greater St. Louis, Inc. Chair’s Council, spoke to the value immigrants offer the business community. “Immigrants bring new cultures, new ideas and many contributions to our neighborhoods. Just as we as a community have done in the past, we have a unique opportunity in the St. Louis area to welcome additional refugees to the region, if we will step up and provide the help to assist them.”

The International Institute recently announced that the organization has moved nearly 600 Afghans into permanent housing in the metro. This success is due in part to more than 800 volunteers, as well as corporate and civic supporters, stepping up in a big way.

“The people and families from Afghanistan can come to St. Louis with the knowledge that they will find a welcoming community that wants to see them thrive, succeed, and add to the fabric of our region,” said Greater St. Louis, Inc. CEO Jason Hall. “Greater St. Louis, Inc. and the larger business community continues to support this effort in order to grow a more vibrant, welcoming and inclusive St. Louis.”