GREENSBORO, NC – (April 15, 2008) – Generous grants from two local organizations will jump-start the community outreach efforts of the Hope Project, an initiative that seeks to steer young adults away from gang-related activity. The Weaver Foundation and the Greensboro Grasshoppers will provide $300,000 each during the next three years, for a total grant amount of $600,000.
The grants will be announced during the April 15 City Council meeting.
"The Weaver Foundation and the Greensboro Grasshoppers are pleased to join with the City of Greensboro in supporting this project to make gangs less attractive to young people and to divert potential gang members to more productive involvements and activities,” said Weaver Foundation President Skip Moore. “The recently formed gang unit in the Police Department is an important step to confront existing gang activities. But the goal of the Hope Project is to reduce the need for that special unit. Over the next three years, we hope to see the entire community come together around this effort."
Using existing community agencies and resources, the Hope Project works with young adults to help them find alternatives to gang membership. With the assistance of some 40 agencies and more than 60 individuals, the Hope Project offers a variety of services to youth who find themselves drawn toward gangs and illegal activities.
Also during the Council meeting, Hope Project coordinator Darryl Kosciak will announce the formation of the Hope Project Hotline (336-373-HOPE).
“The hotline is for teens who are involved with gangs and want out and for those who are ‘in the bubble’ or on the fringes of gang-related activity,” Kosciak said. “Our message to those young people is, ‘Are you tired of being in the game? Do you want to get away from gang influences? Then call us. We can help you.’”
Already, the Hope Project has worked with nearly 30 young adults and their families, Kosciak said. Most of those young adults have either successfully completed the program or are still participating, he added. Only six left without completing the program.
“We have done this all with a part-time focus,” Kosciak said. “Now, with the help of these grants, we can expand our efforts with a full-time outreach staff that will allow us to make the youth we’re working with a priority.”
The key to the success of the Hope Project is a strong collaboration with community partners, Kosciak said. “We may be taking the lead in this initiative, but the entire community needs to be involved for our work to have a lasting impact,” he said.
During the past several months, gang activity in Greensboro has attracted significant community interest and activism. Council members Goldie Wells and Diane Bellamy-Small have sponsored Drug and Gang Awareness Forums, and the Greensboro Police Department has intensified its focus on gang-related activities.
Capt. John Wolfe, head of the GPD’s Gang Unit, said the combined efforts of the community and the Police Department seem to be making a difference. “We have seen a steady decline in violent crimes since October of 2007,” Wolfe said. “This can be attributed to many factors, including the formation of the Robbery Task Force, the formation of the Gang Unit, a high percentage of successful investigations, a heightened awareness by the community, and extensive media coverage.”
Wolfe said that the GPD has validated 175 gang members in Greensboro, and gang activity has decreased slightly. While the statistics are encouraging, Wolfe stressed the need for continued diligence.
“The importance of the Hope Project cannot be overstated,” he said. “By preventing gang-related crimes, the Police Department can improve the quality of life in our community. But the Hope Project can make a tremendous difference in the life of a young adult who was headed in the wrong direction. You just can’t put a price on that.”
The City works with the community to improve the quality of life for residents through inclusion, diversity, and trust. As the seventh largest employer in Greensboro, the City has a professional staff of 2,800 employees who maintain the values of honesty, integrity, stewardship, and respect. The City is governed by a council-manager form of government with a mayor and eight council members. For more information on the City, visit www.greensboro-nc.gov or call 373-CITY (2489).