INDIANAPOLIS — LaShauna Triplett spent her Memorial Day afternoon watering the tomatoes and cabbage and strawberries young people will soon be transplanting and tending at the MLT Love Garden at the Mackida Loveal & Trip Outreach Center in the 3400 block of North Sherman Drive.

“We are going to teach youth agriculture, agribusiness and culinary along with composting,” said Triplett from beneath her straw hat. “We are thinking outside of the box, giving them alternatives to crimes, giving them mental health support by connecting them back to the earth.”

Triplett’s partner is Vivian Muhammad of Elephants Garden Urban Farm.

“They will also be learning how to procure, learning how to create value-added products, working in the farm stand, working in our health and beauty bodega, so they’ll be getting training in soft skills but they’ll see how the agriculture can be transformed into another form of money for them,” she said.

The MLT Center and Elephant Gardens are just two of the local groups that received community anti-violence funding from the City of Indianapolis, which has committed $15 million this year to fight crime at the grass roots level.

Last week, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced his administration will fund another $15 million in anti-violence grants.

“Some of these programs that are being currently implemented right now are being effective even though we’re seeing this high number of shootings,” said Erik Davenport of Resources Organized in Kommunity, “because you must take into consideration that if these programs were not implemented, there would probably be a much higher level of gun violence in our community.”

This past weekend in Indianapolis a 14-year-old was arrested for his alleged role in an armed carjacking, last week a 17-year-old was apprehended when he was spotted walking around a motel with an AR-15 rifle and the week before another 14-year-old was wounded by gunfire on the eastside.

So far this year at least ten children have died of gunshot wounds in Indianapolis.

Two of those deaths have been investigated as unintended self-inflicted fatal wounds as the result of adults leaving unattended guns near children.

“We’re going to be working to do what I would like to call a gun awareness course,” said Davenport, “where what we really want to start talking about the use of a firearm, what it was designed to do, we want to talk about some gun safety issues, what do you do when you come across a gun, we want to talk to some parents in households if a mom finds a gun, how to handle it, what to do with it, because some parents don’t want to call the police. We still want to give them that knowledge on gun safety how to handle a gun, who to call, some protocols for gun safety.”

Out back of the MLT Center is a chicken coop with a dozen hens that produce fresh eggs every day under the watchful eyes of a pair of goats youth clients attend to.

“I would say raising animals in the animal husbandry program has taught them empathy, its teaching compassion,” said Triplett. “It is increasing their social skills also strengthening their social-emotional learning because they are learning how to connect with something that is dependent on them to feed them, to nurture them.”

Muhammad admits that by educating the children, whether its about gun safety or nutritious food, their parents will follow.

“Fridays they’ll be cooking dinner for their parents and letting their parents in on that fresh cooked food and showing them how simple it is,” she said.

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