Wednesday, July 29, 2009

East Garfield Park Shootings - The Rest of the Story

This morning, as I did my morning browse of the news, I was shocked and saddened to see that 15 people had been shot the night before throughout the city of Chicago. Last night was a beautiful evening in Chicago - a bit humid but not overly warm - and it saddens me to think that as I was enjoying a beautiful run along Lake Michigan, in other parts of my beloved city people are getting shot, some, possibly, as they were trying to enjoy the beautiful weather as well.

I was especially upset to see that a number of those who were shot last night were in East Garfield Park. Just last week, Bradley Troast and I visited a phenomenal program in that neighborhood, Breakthrough Urban Ministries. I can't help but think of the people who we walked and drove past as Bill Curry, the COO of the organization, who gave us a tour of the program and a bit of the neighborhood, and hope that they're okay. Or that possibly one of the people was who was shot, was a relative or a friend of one of the students who enthusiastically told us what they were doing in the program. It's hard for me to imagine that on the quiet, tree-lined street where Breakthrough Urban Ministries Children and Family Center is, where people sit on the stoops chatting and where well-kept bungalow houses with manicured gardens line the street, a mere two and a half blocks away seven people were wounded by a single gunman.

When people read the news all they will read about is people getting shot in one of Chicago's "bad neighborhood." When I read the news today, I thought of the wonderful people I met and a community that does not deserve this kind of violence. Breakthrough Urban Ministries is performing miracles in East Garfield park, but they can only do so much.

When I searched under "Chicago Community Area - East Garfield Park" in the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, I was a little shocked, but not completely surprised to see the lack of tutoring and mentoring programs in that neighborhood. There are two Chicago Park District After-School Homework Help programs, Altgeld and Homan Square Parks, two Boys and Girls Clubs, Cather and Martin Luther King, Jr. Clubs, and three programs that do not have websites, Agape Youth Victory Club, Bethany Brethren Community Center, and Fifth City/Introspect Tutoring Program. First Church of the Brethren and Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica both have websites but do not mention tutoring and mentoring programs on them.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection will do everything it can to support and create programs in East Garfield Park. We do not claim that having more tutoring and mentoring programs would have prevented those shootings last night. But maybe it would have done something in the way of giving a youth a safe place to be or to compel someone to not want to use a gun in a violent way.

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