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Organization encourages community to love thy neighbor

caines | 4/18/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Several young men didnt know where to go to receive employment, many families needed someone to talk to after losing a loved one and one young woman was even considering suicide. However they all reached out to a pastor and received the help they needed to continue on. Call A Pastor [CAP], which encourages community members to contact a pastor instead of engaging in violent acts, started in December of last year and has since helped reduce the crime rates in the Liberty City area significantly, while also connecting community members with social services, according to Rev. Billy W.L. Strange, Jr. The program, which has expanded its efforts since its inception, has received a positive response from the community. On Good Friday this year, the organization held a church service outdoors in the middle of the Liberty Square, also known as the Pork N Beans. Hundreds of community members mostly youth came to the event, where they were given free food, while victims spoke about the negative impact that gun violence had on their lives. Several young men who were nearby stopped and listened as Rev. Vernon Gillum, pastor of Gods Tabernacle of Deliverance, shared his story. Gillum lost his son to gun violence in November on the day after Thanksgiving. His son was shot and killed while only five feet away from him. Gillum was also shot. He said the cause became more personal for him when he became a victim of gun violence and a parent of a murdered child. This very initiative, we believe, will serve as a model for other cities and counties across the nation, Gillum said. Theyll see the examples, theyll see the strides and the partnerships thats been established between the clergy, the law enforcement and community. That way in essence we become a nucleus to minimize if not bring into a complete halt a lot of the senseless violence that takes place. There hasnt been any shootings in the Liberty Square area in the past month, since they have launched their Love Thy Neighbor Campaign, according to Strange.

Organization shows growth

This has been an evolving process [and] as the needs become apparent we begin to address [those] needs, Rev. Richard Dunn, pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church, said. He explained that the program was started to combat crime, but then they realized that people needed assistance with other services, such as finding jobs. So the pastors got others involved to help ex-offenders gain employment opportunities. If you dont have any money, that would be a tremendous temptation to revert back to the streets, he added. The organization has held three other church services outdoors, and it now has 20 pastors who are now involved with the initiative. The pastors have recently started to receive training on how to assist family members at a crime scene. They will hold their first membership meeting for community members who are interested in joining the initiative on May 6. Other services the organization has started assisting with, includes: restorative living, grief counseling, foreclosure assistance, assistance with medicine and employment assistance. Their upcoming outdoor community outreach event is in June. The organization will also evangelize in the PSU and Lincoln field area on May 3. Consistency is key, Gillum said. There have been four events and the standard has gone up for each event. The quantity is not going down, [rather] its going to continue to grow. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@miamitimesonline.com