OUTREACH New ministry targets urban men and boys
Leaders are working to provide mentors and share a message of acceptance.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- For 40 years, Melvin Williams has watched the street scene from the drugstore he manages in a deteriorating part of the city. More and more, he doesn't like what he sees.
Williams is among a group of religious leaders and community activists that is forming 100 Male March Ministries, an outreach program for men and boys. The group is launching the program with a walk today in the troubled Walnut Hills neighborhood.
Williams and the others aim to narrow the gulf between street culture and mainstream organizations, such as churches.
"I think a lot of things that stand between them on the street and coming to a place like Gaines or Ammons [Methodist churches] is they feel that they won't be accepted. So we're saying, 'You're invited,'" said Williams, manager of a CVS pharmacy in Walnut Hills and president of the Cincinnati District United Methodist Men.
Fliers have been sent to a number of churches, and members are spreading word about the walk.
Organizers hope they can help reduce violence on Cincinnati's streets, where there have been almost daily shootings, and lead youths into productive lives and help men struggling with alcohol and drug addictions.
Big Brothers of Greater Cincinnati is lending a hand. So are the Urban League and Circle for Recovery Ohio, funded by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.
"Everybody says, 'We need to do something, but we don't know what to do,'" said Milton Trice III, one of the organizers. "We're trying to be that somebody who does something. We have a group of men willing to work with young adults, kids ... who are out here in this lifestyle. We're just trying to reach them."
The group hopes to provide male role models and to help reintegrate former convicts into the community.
Judge John Burlew, another organizer, believes the most effective groups are not so large that they lose the one-on-one participation.
"I think we get overwhelmed with the problems of youth," he said. "You can't solve them all. Don't try. Help one. This march is totally worthwhile if it gets one mentor hooked up with a young person or gets somebody to take a second look and reinvest in his community."
The judge sees the results of idle, misspent youth in the teens and men who come before him in Hamilton County Municipal Court.
"What we see is an awful waste of talent," Judge Burlew said. "It scares me to death to see that going to waste, and there might have been something I could do."
Judge Burlew said he and other black contemporaries became doctors, lawyers and businessmen because someone took an interest in them. He wants to help mentor today's teens.
"Youth respond to how you treat them," Judge Burlew said. "If you see love, you respond to love."