What contributes to the violence in your community?
It’s a question the Apopka Community Task Force on Violence wrestled with for three months, but at its final meeting they drilled-down deep for answers.
Over 100 people attended the concluding event at The John Bridges Community Center in Apopka, and most participated in solution-finding groups that dialogued in a workshop-format for about 40 minutes before reporting their findings to the full group. The four groups spoke passionately and candidly. They agreed, disagreed, argued, collaborated and came to expected and unexpected conclusions on what causes violence in their community and how to fix it.
But before that began, Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson remembered how the idea of the Task Force began with a conference call between him, Co-chair Rod Love, Pastor Hezekiah Bradford and Pastor Richard King.
“Who could have imagined that call 90-days ago could have turned tragedies in our community into a roadmap for a better tomorrow? Nelson asked. “To everyone here tonight let’s not lose our roadmap or leave it on the shelf, but better yet let’s share our roadmap with our friends and neighbors and help shape our community for a better tomorrow.”
Tracy Maxwell offered words of wisdom to the crowd before the group workshops began. His belief is children need to learn discipline to be successful.
“Everything in life works because of discipline. The sun rises and sets because of discipline. The four seasons occur because of discipline. Children need this as well.”
Maxwell joined the United States Army and served for 22 years. Immediately after retiring from the U.S. Army as a 1st Sergeant in April 2001, he was selected as the First Commandant for the State of Florida’s inaugural residential high school program for 16-18 year old troubled teens. Today Maxwell is an inspirational speaker that had plenty to say to the Task Force about the challenge of inspiring the youth of today in a fast moving and an ever-changing culture.
“In order to lead a child where you want them to go, you have to meet them where they are,” he said. “There is no cookie-cutter approach to saving our children. It has to be a collaborative effort. Yesterday’s keys are not going to unlock today’s locks. You have to think outside of the box.”
Unemployment, lack of education, poverty, easy access to guns and drugs appeared on almost everyone’s issue list, and the group led by Pastor Richard King had solutions, to some of those issues. Clinton Salter of the non-profit group Stop The Violence and Embrace, Inc., spoke on behalf of King’s group and offered their ideas for unemployment and poverty.
“Small business and community based economic development programs in these underprivileged areas would help,” said Salter. “A re-entry program for those returning from prison would benefit them too.”
Sam Reddick is a recent graduate of Apopka High School and a Task Force member. His group shared a mindset that can often influence a child against law enforcement.
“Sometimes children are taught at a young age to fear the police,” Reddick said. “Don’t do this or that or the police will arrest you they tell them… instead of teaching them the police are there to protect them.”
Love praised all the participants and Task Force members for their thoughts and solutions.
“The information we got tonight and during the entire process is invaluable,” he said. “This is the type of candid input we need to deliver the help and resources the community needs.”
According to Love, the data received will be compiled in a matrix and published on August 5th.