While religious, civic, government, education leaders and representatives from law enforcement met at Heart of God Ministries on Tuesday to discuss what can be done locally to curb violence, Alabama police were in a standoff with an armed man holding a six-year-old boy hostage.
Current events like these make the leaders’ collaboration heading into an upcoming community meeting even more paramount.
The seemingly daily siege of violence led Heart of God Ministries’ Bishop Fred T. Simms to organize a community meeting at 6 p.m. Friday at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging in Beckley to encourage all sections of the community to come together and collaborate in seeking solutions to violence of all kinds.
Jeannette Thomas, a minister at Heart of God Ministries, explained that Congressman Nick Rahall will give the keynote address at the meeting and Miller Hall, director of secondary education for Raleigh County Schools, will talk about how the Sandy Hook Elementary (Newtown, Conn.) shooting and subsequent acts of violence has effected education.
Also speaking at the event will be Rev. Matthew Watts, who has extensive experience in organizing groups and rallying communities to address violence, guns and drugs.
These presentations will be followed by open discussion for the community to ask the panel questions or share their ideas and concerns.
“It is going to take the community to resolve these issues,” said Thomas. “We want the young people to know we are here for them because so many of them feel like they are out there alone with no support.”
“When our country experiences this kind of violence, it becomes more curcial that we, as a community, come together and start dong things for our young people. They are our future,” commented Miller Hall.
Church Elder Carlos Smith said the church hopes to see “community leaders, government leaders, and families get involved in turning around this succession of violence, guns and drugs. We need to be reeducated in the idea that by collaborating and coming together we can begin to solve some of these problems.
“Many of these problems have already been established, but sometimes to bring down the walls you have to circle it quite a bit, but it takes the involvement of everyone, the full community, Beckley itself,” Smith said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting was Mayor Emmett Pugh, Beckley Police Chief Tim Deems, Sheriff Steve Tanner and Raleigh County NAACP president James Cox.
These leaders met to prepare notes and brainstorm prior to Friday’s community meeting.
The Raleigh County Commission on Aging is located 1614 South Kanawha Street.
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