INDIANAPOLIS - With the recent string of shootings in Indianapolis, lesser-known inner-city programs are working with children and young men to deter them from lives of crime and becoming victims of violence.
Hours before Monday’s fatal shooting, children played and celebrated the success of community center summer camps.
Cameron Walker is a product of both the camps and the staff that run them.
“They helped me stay in school and now I’m about to attend college and I thank them. Without them, I wouldn’t have done it,” Walker said.
Many children involved in the camps are at risk of being raised by the streets.
“My daddy ran out on me. I have no place to go. I have no food at the house. I have nobody to be there for me through my life. We get a lot of new stories each day,” said camp member Olivia Phillips.
In a city where the stories each night have been about the latest shootings, the camp is where the seeds are planted to stop the cycle of violence.
“I think we’ve been successful because we leave judgment at the door. It’s not how you come, it’s how you leave,” said Wallace McLaughlin of the Fathers and Families Center.
After 20 years, the Fathers and Families Center has worked with young fathers up to age 30. Many of which were dropouts, drug dealers or ex-offenders.
They attend six weeks of classes that can lead to a GED, but more importantly, hope for a better life.
“We make a difference one life at a time because it’s generational and if we can intervene, we’re also preventing young men from going back into a life of crime and also modeling that for their sons and daughters,” McLaughlin said.
While Indianapolis’ homicide rate continues to increase, the programs represent the quiet work that is being done to end a cycle of violence that has claimed too many lives.
Follow Chris Proffitt on Twitter: @chrisproffitt