Community leaders help young men turn their lives around

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Gun violence has taken the lives of at least 17 people in the City of Buffalo this year. Many of the victims are young men.

A group of community leaders has been working to turn young men away from all types of violence.

They gather at the headquarters for Back to Basics Outreach Ministries on Buffalo’s East Side to talk about how to channel young people into positive programs.

“A lot of the reasons our kids are on the street is because there’s simply not a lot to do,” said Leonard Lane, the president of Buffalo F.A.T.H.E.R.S. Group.

The group started 17 years ago when a stray bullet hit a school. It’s dedicated to community improvement.

Lane and others involved in F.A.T.H.E.R.S. have held toy drives, taken young people on fishing and bowling outings, and run a basketball league in the summer.

“This way they will get to know one another because I think a lot of times what happens is they don’t realize how much they have in common,” said Lane. “They have a lot of anger in them and a lot of time they don’t realize what they’re doing is actually making the situation worse.”

The program provides mentors to young men like 16 year old Amarri Middlebrooks.

“I made a decision and it got me kicked out of school so I wasn’t applying myself nowhere,” he said.

Lane has helped Middlebrooks improve his relationship with his parents and change his perspective on life.

“To make better decisions, follow what I know is right and think if the situation is going to help me in the long run,” said Middlebrooks.

Men like John McNeal Jr. have discovered role models through the program,

“It means a great deal to me because I didn’t know any successful black men so when these guys got out here Billie, Mr. Lane and Pastor Giles, I was really in shock,” he said.

Billie Webster is the program manager for Buffalo SNUG, which helps educate men in order to prevent retaliation after a crime.

Pastor Giles is the Buffalo Peacemakers coordinator and president of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries.

They helped him get a job, work on his relationship with his now-fiancé, and get back on his feet. McNeal is also a father now.

“You don’t have to donate money or do all of that,” said McNeal. “Start with your household, get up go to work, be positive, start small.”

Billie Webster told News 4 it will take the whole community to prevent violence.

“Nobody is exempt from this violence,” said Webster. “We need people in the community to understand it takes a village to raise a kid, it takes a village to stop the violence.”

Webster lost his son to murder and said that Buffalo’s violence has caused trauma among so many families. He said the city needs to come together to heal.

Back to Basics President, Pastor James Giles, said Mayor Byron Brown has been a big supporter of these programs. Now they want county leaders and other stakeholders to step up with support.

For more information about these programs, click here.

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