Church fights crime by mentoring boys - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Church fights crime by mentoring boys

May 6, 2007

Albany - - Police are getting tough on gang members. Earlier this week we told you how officers raided homes looking for people they believe participate in several gangs active right here in South Georgia. Many of those gang members are young people who get involved in drug activity and even murder.

One Albany church is fighting back. They're reaching out to young boys before they lose them to crime. 

Words of Restoration Ministries meets every Sunday, like most churches. But when the services are over, their work continues.

"I think church has become too complacent and too comfortable in being in the sanctuary," says Pastor Oscar Benton, Jr.

The church operates the I-CAN Family Resource Center providing a number of services, like drug counseling, GED preparation, and tutoring. Now they've added a new service. It's called Boys to Men.

"Whatever needs to be talked about. Cleanliness, how to respect women, how to pull your pants up," these are the things they discuss says Evelyn Cookley who operates the center.

11 year old Shabari Jones is one of the first to sign up.

"I need somebody to rely on and I want to stay out of trouble."

They have a good time playing sports and interacting with each other. But after the fun and games, they talk about issues young boys face.

"A student talking about their mother. That can cause a problem. Kids beat up kids talking about their mom. This program teaches patience, integrity, knowing who you are," Cookley says.

Jones is learning fast.

"I don't want to be in a gang and I learned that I don't have to go to jail and ruin my life as being a black male."

Thanks to the help of his Pastor.

"God has called us to break the cycle of the norm to reach the masses and we cant reach the masses inside the walls," Benton says.

And those who give of their time to shape the future.

"I'm almost certain it will curtail crime," Cookley says.

All while inspiring a new generation by stepping outside of the church walls. 

The Boys to Men program targets boys eight to 16 years old. It meets twice a week and church members will pick up people from the community who want to participate.

For more information, you can contact the I-CAN center in Albany at 229-435-3355.

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