The logo for the SAW2010 gang-prevention effort has a teen who is facing pressures that might have him thinking about joining a gang surrounded by adults who can talk him into making the right choices for himself and his life. A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words.
“The idea is to try to catch these young people before they get older, try to instill moral values in them, try to teach them to make right decisions, so that we can give them something to build on, so when they’re confronted with something when they’re older, they can make the right decisions,” said Joyce Bates, the founder of the Staunton Living Room program that gives children and teens in Farrier Court and two nearby apartment complexes an outlet for positive living that includes a Girl Scout troop, a dance team and lessons on life skills.
Bates was selected as a face for one of the adults in the SAW2010 logo along with another Staunton woman, Sherry Mayo of Madison and Monroe Property Management, who has opened an outreach house on Stafford Street that offers everything from just being a safe haven for some to being a place to learn how to bake cookies and fill out a job application and more.
“I’m learning a lot more about the kids there. What I’m learning is somebody needs to reach out to them. And if we can just help a handful of kids, then that’s great,” Mayo said.
Waynesboro School Superintendent Robin Crowder is the third new face. “Gang-related activities in the Shenandoah Valley continue to increase. They’re not going to go away. And for people to continue to wish and hope that either the schools or the police department can take care of it isn’t very realistic. Because what’s missing for many of these kids is some sort of connection to something,” said Crowder, who has been involved with SAW2010, an offshoot of the Central Shenandoah Office on Youth, from its inception in 2007.
“SAW2010 is working to make that connection and fill some of the gaps that the community isn’t meeting right now, that families aren’t meeting right now It’s about a community’s involvement, not about an office or government involvement, if that makes sense,” Crowder said.
– Story by Chris Graham