CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of recent violence, volunteers are mobilizing for peace in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, hoping to empower young people.
Pastor John Lewis Neal is a volunteer with The Good Neighbor Campaign.
“We have to reclaim our community, ourselves,” Neal said.
Neal and other volunteers, speak to people living in Austin block-by-block. They also talk to people on street corners about everything from job opportunities to making sure families have food to eat.
“It increases the quality of life when neighbors know neighbors and neighbors care about neighbors,” he said.
This neighborhood canvass comes after five shootings in the community in just one weekend in Austin.
One of the shootings happened at LeClaire and Chicago, right in front of a block party the organization was having on July 24.
“We’re going to mobilize because we know there are more of us than it is of them,” Neal said.
Quiwana Bell is the COO of Westside Health Authority, which operates the Good Neighbor Campaign. Bell said the key to change is outreach to young men and jobs, especially for those recently released from prison.
“We have a very young community. We have more 14 to 21-year-olds here than in any other community in the entire state of Illinois, and we’re dealing with unemployment rates of Third World countries. So when the violence mirrors that of third world countries, we shouldn’t be surprised,” Bell said.
The organization not only provides job placement but also has youth sports programs.
Christina Person said until her 10-year-old son Tristan joined the baseball team, she never let him play outside. She feared he’d get shot.
“He’s a completely different child. He loves it,” she said. “He always wants to go outside.”
I can teach life skills through baseball,” Brandon Wilkerson, a Good Neighbor Campaign baseball coach, said he can teach life lessons through baseball.
“You are not always going to hit every time. You are going to strike out sometime, but you always have another opportunity, a chance, to get better,” he said.
All of the volunteers wore orange shirts. Bell said the color orange symbolizes light in the darkness.