BUFFALO, N.Y. – A “coming together” Friday at the Ferry Grider apartments served as an important step for a neighborhood devastated by gun violence.
It’s the same complex where four people were shot in early just, including a 3-year-old boy, who died.
The fear from that traumatic incident kept people in their homes. That is until Friday, as several local organizations worked to make the neighborhood feel whole again.
Pastor James Giles, of Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, is one of the local leaders who visited the area in the immediate aftermath of the shootings.
“We discovered that the youth, they were severely traumatized. They refused and were afraid to come out. We have seniors that normally sit on their porches, are afraid to come out and sit on their porches,” Giles described.
He knew something had to be done.
So on Friday, the Buffalo Peacemakers, SNUG, MVP, Buffalo F.A.T.H.E.R.S., and other organizations got together in the middle of the courtyard to bring back a sense of safety and neighborliness.
They brought in ECMC trauma counselors and gave away free food.
A bounce house was inflated, to the delight of the children.
For the first time in more than two weeks, dozens of kids were outside, just getting to be kids.
But they remember the tragedy, and the recognize the change Friday brought.
“Yeah, it was nobody coming outside,” said a young girl, noting her neighborhood had been quiet since the toddler died. “As soon as my cousin, Miss Evelyn, she brought out the bounce house and stuff, everybody started getting happy again and stuff like that.”
The leaders of this community hope to keep that momentum going.
“Today is what I would call a breakthrough,” said Sidney Sweat, Vice President of the BMHA Ferry Grider homes. “You know, these people go through a lot each and every day, and due to the tragedy that happened, today is definitely…I’d say the sun is shining back here in the East Ferry Grider projects.”
Darryl Scott is one of the people who came up with the idea for Friday’s event.
“This has been a major step. Even if it’s just one step, it’s one major step to where the community is feeling safe again,” said Scott, the program manager of SNUG.
Part of the event included a toy gun exchange, allowing children to give up the fake guns for a new, non-violent toy, like a football or a fishing rod. Those who exchanged their toy guns were also entered into a raffle for new bicycles.
Leonard Lane, of Buffalo F.A.T.H.E.R.S, said it was one of his most successful toy gun buy-pack campaigns.
“We want to make sure that the families know that, that we can play together. We can have fun together. We can love one another without having guns, without shooting one another,” Lane said.
But eventually, the food and the fun gets packed up, and a nice day comes to an end.
So what’s next for a neighborhood on edge?
“A lot of love, a lot of caring, a lot of trusting…and just make sure everybody still comes out, and not a one day thing, let’s make it an everyday thing,” said Gary Dixon, President of the BMHA Ferry Grider Homes.