INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Antonio Patton, Sr. leaned up against the wall of a north side church, a red U.S. Marine Corps cap turned around backwards on his head, his eyes trained on 12-year-old Antonio, Jr.
Little Antonio’s mom recently spotted Reverend Malachi Walker on FOX59’s Red Couch, talking about his camp for boys, and told Big Antonio that’s where she wanted her child to spend his summer days.
“I was sold on it the first day,” said Patton. “I’ve heard several times it takes a village to raise a child. I believe now today it takes a nation to raise a child with everything that’s going on in our communities and our societies and our neighborhoods.”
Patton was proud of his son’s attendance at camp in the basement of Great Commission Church of God at 3302 North Arsenal Avenue and of the guest speaker who welcomed the dozens of youngsters to the first day of the rest of their summer.
“This is the single best leadership program that I know in the entire city of Indianapolis for our young people in the summer time,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett told the campers.
Rev. Walker said he has enough funds to welcome 75 boys to his summer camp.
More than 100 youngsters signed up, but Walker said he didn’t have the heart to turn down anyone’s child.
For two-to-three days this summer, until school starts again, Walker and his counselors, many of them graduates of the program, will mentor the boys of the Young Men Inc. camp in gang awareness, life skills and decision making, physical fitness, college preparation and cultural enrichment while participating in a military school environment.
Tuesday morning, Hogsett wondered out loud if he was maybe looking into the face of the young boy who would someday follow him into the mayor’s office.
Wednesday afternoon, the mayor is set to announce the name of his long awaited Community Violence Reduction Coordinator.
Last fall, Hogsett promised such a coordinator would work of his office, focused everyday on the strategies and implementation to combat crime at the community level.
“It’s a very necessary step to help us through the summer months and I’m excited about getting people on board and getting them out on the streets,” said Hogsett, referring to the staff the coordinator will be assembling. “They will be working in our Office of Public Health and Safety along with the rest of the team down there and they’re gonna be out on the streets talking to particularly young people all summer long, spread out in the areas that unfortunately have a disproportionately high level of gun violence, hopefully making a difference keeping our streets safe and peaceful this summer.”
FOX59 has learned the woman tagged to fill the coordinator’s role has longtime ties to Indianapolis’ neighborhoods and experience in the county’s criminal justice system.
She will be tasked with not only meeting with communities and developing plans but overseeing nearly $300,000 in grants set aside for combating crime.