Overall, Huntington has seen a drop in violent crime this year. However, after three homicides in less than 48 hours last week, many residents are still struggling to cope with the violence.
“This city is not safe to me,” said LeighAnne Hall, who grew up in Huntington.
Back-to-back shootings last week led to three people being murdered and another injured in the hospital. Melvin Courts Jr., 26, and Kelli Adkins, 27, were killed Tuesday and Joann Childers, 32, was killed Wednesday.
For many that knew the victims or their families, each loss is personal.
Hall knew Melvin Courts Jr. well because he was her son’s cousin.
“I’ve watched Melvin grow up and it’s heartbreaking,” said Hall. “His parents and his whole family are amazing. He was an amazing father to his daughter. It’s heartbreaking for Huntington – so many of our youth. Their lives will not be in vain.”
That pain has motivated Hall, Robert Byrd, and Brandi Hinkle, who also grew up in Huntington, to create a new community program that focuses less on talk, and more on action.
“This is all hands on deck,” said Hall. “This is a wake up call. Wake up. There’s plenty of things that can be done. Let’s do it.”
Their aim for the program is to help encourage at-risk youth, or anyone in need, by teaching them skills, incorporating organizations that already exist, and bettering the community.
“What we want to do is try to start helping the different communities in Huntington come together and help each other get the word out about programs that exist, and if there’s a gap that we can fill in,” said Hinkle.
“We’re going to have community projects,” said Hall. “We’re going to find hands-on experiences. We’re going to have workshops, how to manage your money, your finances.”
However, they also believe change can come from anyone, with small acts of kindness.
“If you know someone lives down the block that can’t mow their grass, help them mow their grass,” said Hinkle. “Just little things that make you feel good and makes them feel good.”
“We are a tribe,” said Hall. “We are a family and the sooner that we realize that we do need each other, the better off we’re going to be and the sooner this problem is going to be fixed.”
If you’d like to get involved or hear more about the community program, you can contact the organizers through their Facebook page, How Does Your Garden Grow? Huntington Edition.