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  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Families First volunteers met Wednesday to work on the July 22 rally at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Brooklyn Avenue that will address gun violence, immigration practices and preschool vouchers. From left: Timika Bonner, Alanna Saylor, Stacey Davis, Katelyn Gustin and Pastor Angelo Mante of Simpson United Methodist Church.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 10:00 pm

Faith-based group addresses gun violence

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JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Families First, a new faith-based group joining the battle to curb gun violence in Fort Wayne, will hold a rally July 22 at St. Joseph Catholic Church on Brooklyn Avenue.

The Allen County-based group is part of Faith in Indiana which has its roots in Faith in Action, a national group, according to members of Families First meeting Wednesday evening at Simpson United Methodist Church on South Harrison Street.

Faith in Action is also associated with the Live Free campaign.

The new initiative, spearheaded by Audrey Davis, former social justice ministries coordinator at the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese and now the Northeast/North-Central lead organizer at Faith in Indiana, has targeted three ways to make positive changes for distressed families.

The Wednesday night group focused on reducing the number of homicides, a number reaching 24 in Allen County this year. Group Violence Intervention measures will be based on successful models other cities used to reduce the number of homicides, said Stacey Davis, whose son, Codi McCann, was shot to death in December 2016 in Fort Wayne.

Stacey Davis, working at the Group Violence Intervention Table, said she will push for street outreach workers who are often “OGs” or old gangsters who have lived the lifestyle and are not afraid to approach young men with guns who are willing to shoot or would likely be shot at.

Davis contrasted the cost of one homicide, estimated at $1.8 million in Chicago and only slightly less in Fort Wayne, with the much lower estimated cost of providing street reach workers who would be paid, professionally-trained and full-time. It was unclear Wednesday night exactly how much the workers would be paid.

Other Families First goals include ending the practice at the Allen County Jail of holding detainees for immigration authorities and providing more preschool vouchers for underprivileged children.

Pastor Angelo Mante of Simpson United Methodist Church sits on the clergy committee of Fort Wayne United, a mayoral initiative that is organizing a local chapter of The Ten Point Coalition, another anti-violence campaign.

Mante said he did not want Families First to be in competition with Fort Wayne United but rather a “both/and case.”

Several churches and local political candidates have pledged support for the July 22 rally, Davis said. More information on Families First can be had by emailing audrey@faithindiana.org. 

jduffy@jg.net