Video by Jacob Thompson
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — It was her second event this year, but Trina Williams said Saturday to stick around for more.
Williams, who helped to organize the Community Focus Forum at the Oak Hill Collaborative, said she is bringing her message of unity and stopping the violence to other places on the south side in a bid to get citizens involved.
As she worked over a chicken dinner she was preparing for guests at the forum, she said events like the forum are a good way for community members to get together and support each other and to address issues like crime and violence in their neighborhoods.
“We’re going to hit the streets,” Williams said. “We want to take them back and get the stigma out of the area.”
On hand Saturday were several community groups, including the ACTION; the Oak Hill Neighborhood Association; Save Our City, a group dedicated to helping young people escape violence; United Returning Citizens; police department Community Liaison Malik Mostella; and city fire Chief Barry Finley.
Pat Kerrigan, executive director of the collaborative, said events like the one Saturday are a good way to engage people in the neighborhoods by giving them a place to gather as well as resources to help solve problems in their neighborhoods.
ACTION was giving away their Hot Spot Cards Saturday, an idea they resurrected recently, to help residents anonymously report trouble in their neighborhoods. A resident can fill the card out and return it to ACTION, who can then pass it on to the police department.
Vicki Vicars, of ACTION and the Oak Hill Neighborhood Association, said they have given a lot of cards away recently to community groups to distribute to their members.
“The request for the cards has been wonderful,” Vicars said.
Events like the one Saturday are important for ACTION because it is a way for them to reach people in the community, Vicars said.
“Our work is built on relationships in the community,” Vicars said.
Derrick Henderson, of Save Our City, also said community events are important to him so he can spread the message to young people in the city that there is hope for their futures.
“We all go through life’s problems, life’s struggles, but it’s good to have someone inspire you,” Henderson said.
Mostella said events like Saturday are important to him because it is a good way to show that he is serious about his job of reaching out to residents and hearing their concerns and comments about the police department.
“It’s not just talk,” Mostella said. “I have to do it.”
Kerrigan said people in the neighborhoods are ultimately the ones who can make improvements, with help from different agencies, so it is important to have events where they can get together and be engaged.
He stressed that change doesn’t come right away but it will if people keep plugging away.
“You just have to keep moving the ball down the field,” Kerrigan said. “It’s not like there’s going to be an overnight change.”