Gang Graffiti wiped out by youth group - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Gang Graffiti wiped out by youth group

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – Some middle school students from Florida are spending the last part of their summer vacation cleaning up the streets of Albany. So far this week, they've painted benches, volunteered at the FoodBank, and today, they spent their time wiping out gang graffiti throughout the city.

Gang members love to tag their name and symbols on buildings and signs. It gives them notoriety, marking their territory, but Thursday, much of their work was wiped out by others.

Montez Stephens grew up on the streets of Albany, and spent some time behind bars for the acts he committed out here.  He said, "One gang wanted to be badder than the other one so we could have a reputation about ourselves."

He got in a shootout with a rival gang member, and was charged with aggravated assault. He's lucky he didn't die that day. He said, "Reputation don't give a care about you when you're dead and gone."

Montez hasn't led a pristine life since he committed that crime, he's been locked up again. But he says he's changed. "I'm done with that," he said.  "I'm willing to step out and help out to these young kids in the community."

That's why Thursday, he joined up with a youth group that's in town from Jacksonville Beach Florida, to clean up graffiti in central Albany. They are here to serve others.

Lilly Mauti said, "Because we love serving the Lord and we love just being able to give back to the community and to just share the great word of God with everybody."

Cleaning up the city, one brush stroke at a time.  Kristi McPherson said, "To make the community a better place."

Getting paint on their hands, washing some of the crimes of the past off of others. Rob Johnston said, "There are some communities that we just feel we can help as well. We can get out there and do everything we can, it's great and also by going to another city, our kids are exposed to different things also."

And hopefully turned away from a life of crime and poor choices. It's a lesson Montez Stephens says he'll continue to spread.

This is the third year the youth group has come to Albany on a mission trip to help clean up the city. In addition to cleaning up graffiti, the youth group helped clean senior citizens yards and pick up litter in Albany.

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