Five community service organizations in Macon have been allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan by the Macon-Bibb County Commission to go towards violence and crime intervention. Representatives from each organization gave presentations about their group's goals and impact prior at the County Commission meeting Feb. 15.
The organizations that received funds include Motivating Youth Foundation, the Community Empowerment Center, Lois’s Kids, Royal Science and One World Link.
In July 2021, the County Commission approved $2,000,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used for community violence intervention services.
The proposals for each organization passed through the commission the week prior, Feb. 8, on a 9-0 vote, allocating $811,800 to One World Link, $180,000 to Royal Science, $126,000 to Lois's Kids, $406,410 to the Community Empowerment Center and $135,000 to the Motivating Youth Foundation.
Roger Jackson, who grew up in Macon, spent 18 years in the NFL. He founded the Motivating Youth Foundation after his retirement in an effort to give back to his community. The organization’s Adult Readiness Program was created to provide jobs and opportunities for Macon and Middle Georgia residents. Jackson said that he has 46 companies on board.
During his presentation, Jackson discussed the difficulty for individuals with a criminal record to get hired once out in the workforce. In the last two years, he has gotten 80 people hired, he said.
“We’re changing the minds of the unemployable, the minds of the criminal thinking, and saying that there are people like that who will give you an opportunity,” Jackson said.
Willie J. May and Jason McClendon both presented with the Community Empowerment Center. The mission of the organization, according to their website, is to “enhance the quality of life for all residents who live in poverty stricken communities locally around the world, and to foster the stabilization of the community.”
“We’re really trying to reach people who are either targeted by crimes or have been involved in committing crimes and actually bringing people who are in crime-ridden areas, giving them opportunities to either enhance themselves educationally, learn a trade,” McClendon said. “Also it’s the mentorship, the social-emotional learning and also being able to communicate without aggression, without it going to the next level.”
Some of the goals of the organization, according to McClendon, include working with children before they reach gang activity in the area.
“We believe that we have assessed a team together that is able and not afraid to be able to go into these areas and set up opportunities for them to be able to have better than what they have been exposed to,” McClendon said.
Lois’s Kids, which has operated in Macon for seven years, offers life skills workshops for local youth as well as community outreach. Earnestine J. Broady presented the Strategic Targeted Awareness Response Coalition project, which was proposed to the city for consideration of the grant.
“Our goal is to reduce violent crime in our community by empowering the community through education, increased awareness, strengthening neighborhood cohesion, providing services that promote positive lifestyle changes and increased community awareness of available resources,” Broady said.
Shekita Maxwell delivered a presentation about long-term anger and aggression in youth and linking the interests of family and teachers in crime prevention. She also discussed a partnership with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Macon Regional Youth Development Center for gang prevention. Her focus area is West Macon, and a key theme cited in her presentation is that “social and gender-related conflicts are resolvable through stress management and can improve youth and young adult persistence and achievements.”
The final presenter was Ade Oguntoye with One World Link, which has worked in Macon for four years. The organization has also worked and found success in Atlanta, and one of its goals is curbing gun violence through an evidence-based model.
“We know that a small amount of individuals commit the vast majority of homicides,” Oguntoye said. "If we can target and redirect them, we can address this problem.”
Oguntoye also aims to change community norms to reduce violence.
“When people think that certain neighborhoods are places that crime can happen, they’re more likely to commit crime there,” Oguntoye said. “So if we can change the norms in those neighborhoods, then we can keep violence and we can keep crime from happening in those places.”
Samantha Homcy ‘23 is a junior at Mercer majoring in journalism and criminal justice. She has been working at The Cluster since her freshman year and served as Social Media Co-Manager during the spring 2021 semester. She is currently a practicum intern with WMAZ-TV. In her free time she enjoys music, community service, watching TV and finding new ways to get involved on Mercer’s campus.