Supporting youth community activities can deter gun violence

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This has been a moving and tragic year for so many families in the Lansing area. Although I have not lost any of my family, our family was touched by the death of Darrell Smith II on March 31. His mother is a longtime friend of the family, his brother and I share a birth story as we are a day apart, and Darrell Smith II has been a dear friend of my oldest since kindergarten.

It got me thinking about the many friends I’ve lost over the years (I still remember Darren Jackson’s smile and Robert Wray’s laughter) and the number of funeral services I’ve attended. I heard the pain in a mother’s cry as the casket is closed for the last time. This time I had to support my son while he cried for his friend.

After multiple tragedies that befell our community, several community conversations have taken place. Two things stood out to me after hearing community members speak: the need for space and funding. Many small organizations that are already working with our youth have expressed a need for physical space or funding to do more with the youth of our city.

The Gun Violence Task Force was created by Mayor Andy Schor in the hope that we can come together with ideas and solutions to help our city get a grip on the things that are happening. The process for the city budget was already completed for the 2021-22 fiscal year. But, due to a previous spending freeze in our departments, we had funds that could be carried over to the next fiscal year.

Mayor Schor’s proposal to carry over funds from the 2020-21 fiscal year to support youth activities in the city of Lansing was approved by the city council at its meeting on Monday, August 9. Rather than these funds going to the reserves, we were able to ask instead that the funds be directed towards community programming grants for youth.

The goal of the Community Youth Programs Grants Program is to provide funding to local organizations to improve and expand their existing projects and programs to help prevent and stop gun violence among youth through age 24.

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Civic organizations can apply for more than one grant for amounts up to $ 2,000. Grant applications will be reviewed by volunteers from the Neighborhood Advisory Council.

Applications will be accepted until September 22. The application is available online at lansingmi.gov/buildlingneighbourhoods, or a paper application is available from the Department of Neighborhoods and Citizen Engagement office located at the Letts Community Center (west side).

I sincerely hope that these funds will be of use to organizations that do this important work with our young people. We know these grants aren’t huge, but they can have a significant and lasting impact in our community.

DeLisa Fountain is the mother of three sons and is Director of the Neighborhood and Citizen Engagement Department for the city of Lansing.

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