Long before two little boys were shot on the east side on Tuesday night, some ministers concerned about crime in the area started planning a rally they called "Pray 4 My Hood."
On Friday night, they gathered at the Wheatley Heights Sports Complex to do just that. They gave away clothing and food, feeding bodies and souls. They had free family fun for the kids and a free concert, along with a message of hope.
They said that their goal was to be an army fighting for peace in the streets.
“We know things have been happening, been popping off on the east side, but we know that there's someone greater, who is doing a greater work in our lives. And we know that there's a great hope, and his name is Christ Jesus," Pastor Jondavid De Leon told the crowd from the stage.
Pastor A.T. Torres worked up a sweat moving boxes of groceries, working the crowd, and encouraging people to sign up for future events.
"We want you guys to know we're here for you," Torres told several women carting away large bags of food.
“Reaching out to the community is important because it gives them hope," said Sheree Rumph, who also ministers at the Palms apartments, where the two young boys were shot. "It brings unity and it shows them that they are loved, that Jesus loves them and it just gives hope. And it gives them faith to keep pressing on, to keep persevering, to keep enduring.”
Jennifer O. De Leon said that the effort is important now because people in the community need to know they have people they can rely on for support.
“There are people that care. And it's amazing when you have people that have been raised up in the neighborhood and they know what it is to come back and give, and give hope,” said De Leon who added that it's a joy to see the results of their efforts. “People know when it's genuine and, as I was speaking to the different women and men who have come out, they love it. They feel loved. They feel appreciated. They feel like they are not alone and they are just receiving the understanding of concerned community. And we don't want them to feel left out, or an inconsistency. We want them to know that there are consistent people that want to come in and lock arms with them and say 'Hey, no more! No more! No more! No more!' We're here to make change and it's a good one."
“An event like this is very important to the east side here and now for the simple fact that it's so much going on on the east side that's negative," Andre Bowie said. "We want to be the positive. We want to bring the light in the midst of darkness and continue to shine that light.”