INDIANAPOLIS – Inside the community center of Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, kids were looking for a place to unwind on Friday.

“There’s just been a lot of sad things going on, a lot of negativity,” said Reis Radford, 10.

The rising homicide rate in Indianapolis, along with the effects of COVID-19, continue to leave an impact, especially among kids, like Reis and 16-year-old Jayla.

“Those are a few factors that have gone into us wanting to revamp community,” said Jayla Myers, 16.

Jayla and Reis are among the church’s youth group helping put on its Youth Day Weekend.

Friday’s kickback at the community center was the start of the festivities, which also included free food, activities and a panel discussion featuring college-aged members of the church.

Kendra Randle, who serves as co-chair of the church’s youth ministry, said the timing of these events serves as a safe space for today’s kids.

“We have youth now, with generations prior to and upcoming, where they are playing and wearing so many different hats, and so many different roles that adults sometimes wear,” Randle said, “and they’re having to be adults as children and they never get the time to just be kids.”

“This type of environment, it’s around the people that we love,” she added. “We ask them to invite their friends, but it is people that they have grown up around, people that have mentored them throughout the years, family members, friends. So, a safe environment where they are able to engage with one another, able to feel honest and open about asking questions.”

As the city pushes through another deadly year of homicides, including among juveniles, Randle said it’s important kids have a village of support to help break the trends already seen in today’s society.

“It took a village to help raise me and to raise a lot of the other people that are my age that are in this church, and it took a village to do that,” Randle said. “Now, I have become a part of that village that is to raise and be a part of that community that helps to groom and to grow, and the cycle will hopefully be that it was poured into me, and so now I can pour it into them, and hopefully they will be able to take and pull all of those things and pour it into someone else.”

The church has Youth Day Weekend details posted on its social media pages, but among the events are a community cleanup and concert on Saturday and a youth-led worship service on Sunday.

Though the kids put in a lot of work to make this weekend happen, many said it’s a labor of love as they look forward to serving their communities and the impact it’ll have.

“It feels really good because I like to help people,” said Riley Sharp, youth organizer. “That’s one of my lifelong dreams, when I get older, is to help others, and so I want to bring positivity and helpfulness into the community, and the world, and our church community.”

“It kind of feels heartwarming to know that I’m a part of something so big,” said Reis.