10/09/08 — Stop the Funeral wants gang program

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Stop the Funeral wants gang program

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 9, 2008 1:46 PM

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said Tuesday that the public's idea of dealing with youthful drug users and gang members -- "locking them all up" -- might sound good, but that it is not necessarily the best way to address the problem.

"I know you have heard concerns from citizens about our young people and probably some have had heard the same thing I have heard about drugs and gangs," Winders told county commissioners at their meeting. "That sounds pretty good, but it is not the best. We need to show these troubled at-risk youths that there is an alternative for them."

Winders was speaking in support of the STOP the Funeral Initiative's second annual Corner-2-Corner Drug Dealer/Gang Member Redemption Conference to be held Nov. 6-8. at the Goldsboro-Raleigh Assembly Headquarters on Hooks River Road.

He also asked commissioners to consider a $5,000 request by the organization to help defray the cost of a

special anti-gang, anti-drug program to close out the


The $5,000 request made by STOP the Funeral Initiative's Francine Smith was unanimously approved by the board with two stipulations -- a similar donation from the city and another $5,000 raised from the private sector.

"You know we do not usually give money once the budget is passed in July. It has been our policy in the past not to do that," said Commissioner Jack Best. "My personal opinion is that this is a special effort that we need to support, and I recommend that we do offer a $5,000 donation if it comes with the support of the city for $5,000 and private donations of $5,000. If you can do those two other things, I recommend we give the ,000.

"And here is a (personal) check to start you off."

Ms. Smith said the organization needs $15,000 for two performances of "Campaign-4-Change," an anti-drug, anti-violence, anti-gang production by Otis Lyons, who is a former gang member. Ms. Smith said the presentation is tentatively scheduled to be held at Goldsboro High School.

"It (presentation) is his testimony," she said. "His purpose now is to reach young people with his production company and help them turn their lives around and help them make better choices and better decisions.

"One of the things he says is that they are not bad people, they just made bad decisions. He is helping young folks make better decisions.

"We want to bring it here and for it to be free for all Wayne County students. It has been a powerful presentation over the years that Otis has been doing it. Mr. Lyons came to our conference last year and he was one of the most impassioned


Ms. Smith said they wanted to reach out to the community as a whole.

"We also want to focus on our alternative schools because a lot of them are the young people who are just starting to head in the wrong area," she said. "If we can reach them at that point before they get too far gone, then we have really made a change."

Winders said both he and Goldsboro Police Chief Tim Bell endorse the "Campaign-4-Change" program.

"As you know, our jail is already overcrowded," Winders said. "This program is designed to get our youths to change their lives. It benefits youths and the county in savings -- you know what it costs to keep someone in jail."

Commissioner John Bell said that a community effort does make a difference.

"When I was out there working on the street (as a parole and probation officer) we didn't have the community effort that we have now," he said. "It makes a big difference when the community is working to help people change their habits."

Commissioner Atlas Price said he, too, appreciates the effort. He reiterated earlier comments about the need for churches to be involved.

"I think it is commendable you are stepping out to do something about youths,"

he said.

"People have worked countless hours to get the message out that there is a different way of life than gangs and drugs," Winders said. "I believe this program will help them see and experience that they can make a change. After all, in my experience, when you lock them all up, all you have done is further their criminal education."

Checks should be made out to Rebuilding Broken Places CDC and mailed to STOP the Funeral Initiative, 2105 N. William St. 27530 or call Ms. Smith at 581-9178, ext. 104.