Gary events promote students’ return to school, end to violence
By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen Post-Tribune correspondent August 30, 2013 11:44AM
Gary Community School Corp. board president Rosie Washington supervises as students register for free school supplies during the Back to School Festival at Pittman Square Park. | Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen/Ror Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 2, 2013 6:23AM
Unsuspected acts of kindness spread throughout Gary when community leaders took to the streets on a recent weekend.
One school board official, countless church leaders, the chief of police, local businessmen, and concerned citizens were hands-on, hosting more than 15 charity and safety events simultaneously.
The give-a-ways and stop the violence initiatives were not a collaborative effort — each activity and organization was independent of the next.
Block after block, organizers hosting Back-to-School and Stop the Violence activities were merely coincidental.
“This is just a reflection of the fact that God is hearing our prayers, “ Delpha Roberts said.
Roberts joined nearly 75 supporters during the Stop the Violence Peace March.
Pastor Sieon Robert, Sr. of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church passed a bullhorn among those marching to echo continuous prayers from the intersection at 45th and Broadway to Indiana University Northwest at 33rd and Broadway.
The prayer warriors released 36 helium balloons over Gary in memory of 2013 homicide victims.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Wade Ingram strategically set up six gun buy-back sites.
The program started two year ago, according to Grace Unity Church Buy Back site volunteer Dwight Taylor.
“We’ve collected over 360 guns since we’ve started the initiative,” Ingram said. “And we’ve had less shootings this year.”
At the time of the buy-back, Gary had 11 more homicides year-to-date than in 2012, but gun violence is down, he explained.
“There were 104 shootings this time last year, and 63 shootings to date,” he said.
Ingram implemented 15 community service projects, amongst other Gary Police Department strategies, to stop violence.
“A lot of violence has to do with economic opportunity,” Ingram said. “It’s a social issue.”
Annisa Magee, marching for peace, strolling her 1-year-old son down Broadway, said she’s passionate about making Gary a safe place for kids.
“My cousin, Richard Taylor, was gunned down senselessly in Gary,” she said. “The only reason his murderer was caught is because of the gun buy-back program.”
Other programs also helped combat socioeconomic problems throughout the day.
Gary Community School Corp. board president Rosie Washington hosted more than 500 guests, both adults and youths, during a festival at Pittman Square Park.
Activities included games, food, music and give-a-ways.
“This is our fourth year,” Washington said. “We’re prepared to give school supplies to 300 students.”
During registration, student participants only needed to be present.
Fresh County Market rallied more than 200 eager students hoping to win a raffle for 20 book bags — 10 for girls and 10 for boys.
New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church joined a host of other neighborhood churches roping off parking lots for give-a-ways.
School supplies included folders, pencils, rulers, paper, writing tablets, composition books, crayons, highlighters and much more.
“I’m not a member here, they didn’t ask me for anything, welcomed me with open arms, offered me food, and gave me school supplies for my two kids,” said Tiffany Jackson about New Bethel’s volunteers. “Afterward, they said, ‘God bless you, goodbye.’”
The steel town transformed into a peaceful city of charity. The sense of goodwill that spread throughout Gary replaced gun violence with an angelic sound of singing and clapping.
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church started the day marching for peace, and ended with loud outdoor speakers spreading glad tidings, and giving away clothes, shoes and food during an annual community tent revival.