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For the love of a community
Event planned to reach out to youth
For the love of a community

Statesboro area youth will have the opportunity to learn about making the right choices; get free makeovers and enroll in GED classes Sunday during the Second Annual Community Love Event.

Held Sunday, April 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Louetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, the public gathering will include inspirational messages from Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar, local pastor Maurice Hill and others as the day-long event unfolds.

There will be free food, music and games, as well as the chance to get a free haircut or manicure, said Ralph Scott, who helped partner Michael Fennell organize the event.

The Community Love Event was Fennel’s idea, he said.

Fennell, a 39-year-old man who grew up in Savannah and Statesboro, has a tale to tell, a reason behind his dream of having an annual community gathering that will help young people succeed.

Fennell has a criminal record.

He was jailed in 1999 on robbery charges, and got into more trouble when he was released. Why? “I was hard-headed, wouldn’t listen, and trying to be grown too fast,” he said.

But as he sat behind bars, knowing the pain he caused his mother, Fennell realized his mistakes and also realized he could change his ways.

Then, he thought about all the young people who could be led down a better path instead of choosing gangs and crime.

“I had to rehabilitate myself,” he said.

Fennell feels today’s youth need “more attention,” and that is why he came up with the Community Love Event idea. Support from area businesses and individuals has been phenomenal, he said.

He, Scott, and many other community members plan to spend the day playing games and interacting with area teens and kids. Samantha Smith with Ogeechee Technical College will be on hand to encourage older youth to enroll in GED classes; local barber shops will offer free haircuts and nail technicians will volunteer time as well, he said.

“We will have gospel music as well as hip hop,” he said.  “Everything is free and everyone is invited.”

Scott said the day is an opportunity for he, Fennell and other community leaders and adult members to “coach and mentor” the youth.

“We are trying to set the foundation, shed some light and encourage” them, he said. Also, he hopes to have local law enforcement visit and interact with the kids so they can learn “they don’t need to be afraid of the police.”

Today’s young people don’t have a lot to do in Statesboro, especially on the west side, Fennell said. Many cannot afford or are unable to travel to spots such as Splash in the Boro or The Clubhouse. ” Kids really don’t have a lot to do that makes them feel good and have fun.”
All too often young people turn to the perceived excitement and drama of gang life and crime. Scott and Fennell hope to make it clear that that is not the right path, and even if someone chooses that path, it is never too late to change.

“If I can’t reach them all I can reach one – turn them around,” Fennell said. He is an example of how making wise decisions leads to a better outcome.

Today he is a father and enjoys working at Great Dane. “Just because of what I did 20 years ago doesn’t make my future,” he said. “One bad decision can cost you everything you live for.”

He recalls his mother lamenting his earlier behavior. “Mama said she wanted to see me become a man before she left this earth.”

He and Scott expect a good turnout this year. Last year about 500 people visited and the event was partially recorded on YouTube, he said. He hopes to host a free movie night for families in the future.

Scott said he hopes any young people who have already made mistakes or are on the verge of taking the wrong path will listen to the message that will be repeated Sunday.

“It is not ‘game over” just because you made a mistake,” he said.

 

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

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