YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Real stories from real people have the power to transform lives. On Wednesday, one local church had former gang members who have turned their lives to God share their testimonies in an effort to change more lives.

The energy and emotion were contagious outside of Fifth Avenue Community Church in Youngstown. Wednesday evening, the church held its fourth “Gangs to God” outreach event.

It’s a chance for ex-gang members and people who were once involved in street life to share their testimonies.

The goal behind individuals sharing their stories is to hopefully inspire other folks in the community and give them the hope they may be looking for.

“We need to rescue people, like, pull them out and get them while they’re young. That’s the best time,” said Fifth Avenue Community Church Pastor Mary Hall.

Pastor Hall says it’s important that kids are taught early on that street life and violence are not the answer.

Maria Rodriguez, a member of the church who was once involved with gangs, drugs and drinking, attests.

“That was something that I seen every day, like, I literally seen people get killed right in front of my grandmother’s house. So that was normal to me, but these children, these teenagers need to know that that’s not normal,” Rodriguez said.

Now, they hope to inspire people through faith.

“People are dying out here, either getting shot or drug overdoses, or they end up in jail or in prison, and there’s such a better plan for their lives that God has for them,” Rodriguez said.

Kevin Segriff is a prime example. He grew up in a broken home and turned to drinking and drugs before finding God. He says it’s not too late for anyone else to do the same.

“As long as you’re still alive, there’s still hope for somebody. My message is I did it, you can definitely do it,” Segriff said.