MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As of May, Memphis Police reported 156 homicides city-wide. 13 of those were children. As of Friday, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital treated 68 children with gunshot wounds.
For many Memphians, it is not just a question of how to keep kids out of trouble during the summer, but how can they also keep them safe.
There is one fact certain about the Mid-South. A church is present in each community. “One thing that most churches have is buildings and it’s a biggest bill and, in most cases, our lowest used,” said Pastor Ricky Floyd, Pursuit of God Transformation Center.
That is not the case anymore. “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” said Henri E. Brooks, Shelby County Commissioner D-7.
Brooks started the Faith Based Engagement Initiative to keep children motivated through the summer. “We’ve asked churches in our district and those who want to come outside of our district to open up your doors six days a week for children to come in who want to come for summer camp,” said Brooks. “Children can come in. They can get reading, writing, arithmetic. They’ll have three filed trips and mentoring.”
Roughly 25 churches are partnering so far. “It’s a big number but it’s a necessary number,” said Pastor Floyd.
Pastor Floyd’s church is participating. “We’ll be including some financial literacy. We’ll be including some spiritual growth and empowerment classes. Then, we’re going to slip in over here some gun safety classes. Recently, we saw a three-year-old and last week a five-year-old. We don’t think it’s too young to teach our children the safety aspects of how to deal with a weapon,” said Pastor Floyd.
It also gives parents the ease of knowing their kids are in a safe place. “A lot of times, parents have to work. You don’t want to leave children home by themselves. Then, there are predators, neighbors or even family members who are watching…The summer is a prime opportunity to take advantage of children,” said Pastor Floyd.
“We recognize children need something to do,” said Brooks.
Both Brooks and Pastor Floyd said it is a community-wide response to make sure that need is met. “What you call crime and juvenile negative behavior, doesn’t just affect me or two or three people or the folks on one block, it affects all of us,” said Brooks. “We can do this, but we need everyone to understand that the community has a stake in this.”
“When that happens, we stop competing and we start completing with each other,” said Pastor Floyd.
With 25 different churches participating, Brooks said it makes the summer camps more accessible for parents. The Faith Based Engagement Initiative runs June 15th-August 15th.