Task force wants to make city SAFE

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) An alliance of Grand Rapids city staff, nonprofit and business organizations is reaching out to the community to gather ideas to reduce violence among youth.

The Safe Alliances for Everyone (SAFE) Task Force will listen to public ideas to end violence in the Grand Rapids community at a pitch and highlight night on June 25. The event goes from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Grand Rapids Public Schools Administration Building, 1331 Franklin St. SE.

Participants will get five minutes to present their idea and show how it will be effective in reducing violence in Grand Rapids. Ideas must address issues that 15- to 24-year-olds in the community face. A panel of up to five judges will review proposals and applications, and all winners will report on their progress to the SAFE Task Force at a later date.

Nonprofits will compete for a partnership with the SAFE Task Force and $10,000 to support their efforts to reduce violence in the community. Individuals will compete for the partnership and $1,000 to support their concepts. The Task Force will fund up to five organizations and two individuals for a total of $52,000.

Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear leads the task force made up of both city staff and community members.

“Some of the best ideas to reduce violence in Grand Rapids come from our own community,” Lenear said. “The SAFE Task Force wants to promote and assist in the achievement of those ideas. We look forward to listening to these pitches and learning about new proposals that can benefit all of Grand Rapids.”

Community organizations partnered with SAFE include Spectrum Health, the Steelcase Foundation, Network 180, Heart of West Michigan United Way, LINC UP, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and Grand Rapids Community College, as well as out-of-state organizations like South Bend Group Violence Intervention in South Bend, Indiana, and NOLA for Life in New Orleans.

The SAFE Task Force partners with businesses and community organizations to lower violence in communities with a focus on issues facing 15- to 24-year-old residents, gun violence, lack of pro-social opportunities and mental health issues.

In December 2017, SAFE awarded three individual ideas and three organizational ideas.

Local resident Nahshon Cook-Nelson was granted $500 to form SpeakLightTv, a program dedicated to eliminating violence by working with, entertaining and empowering students.

Cook-Nelson said the money awarded from SAFE Task Force will go to courses, research, development, promotion and delivery of SpeakLightTv's workshops.

The Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan also was awarded a partnership with SAFE Task Force to create a radio and/or television show called "Reality RJ West Michigan" using real people and real events to model restorative justice solutions to violence.

The program will recruit youth ages 15 to 25 who have been involved in violent lifestyles and want to change and tell their stories.

The SAFE Task Force establishes four goals: share information on what exists about neighborhood violence, support programs based on research to fill existing gaps, advocate for community empowerment and voice, and promote city policy through recommendation.

Nonprofits and individuals may submit ideas to the SAFE Task Force by June 21 via us.openforms.com.

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