Following 2006 gang-related shootouts in east Kinston, N.C., Greg Smith, city director of public safety, developed a faith based-community center to offer youth a safe social setting. The result was The GATE of Lenoir County.
The GATE’s primary goal is to prevent lower-income youth from becoming involved in gangs and to help them leave gangs if they are involved. The center serves an average of 35 young people each week and about 200 young people during the year. Approximately 85 percent of the participants are African American, and 10 percent are Hispanic.
The center provides activities for two age groups: “Lil Gators” for children in kindergarten through fifth grade and “Open GATE” for sixth through 12th graders.
The current building, opened in May 2008, includes computer, conference, game and entertainment rooms and a full-size stage. The GATE provides exercise classes, guitar lessons, teen support groups, Bible study, Friday night activities, GED tutoring and monthly events where local churches and civic groups share resources with the youth.
All GATE ministries have Christ as the foundation. Exceptional facilities, faith-based counseling and educational opportunities are geared to “counter cultures of violence, hopelessness, neglect, poverty and abuse with the hope … found in Jesus Christ,” according to the strategic vision statement.
Recently, The GATE received a $1,500 Peace with Justice grant from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. It was one of 14 ministries to receive the grant funded by local churches through the annual Peace with Justice Sunday offering. Many congregations celebrate the special day on the First Sunday after Pentecost.
Wanda Hall, executive director of The GATE, said the grant would pay the expenses involved in taking 14 youth to Washington.
“The youth were chosen on merit, service and attendance to GATE activities,” Hall explained. “By visiting D.C., youth will be able to witness a faithful, just, disarmed and secure world that, for some of them, seems out of reach.”
An avid supporter of The GATE, Westminster United Methodist Church, Kinston, provides funds and volunteers. The ministerial staff is also available for spiritual support.
“Many of our youth,” Hall said, “have participated in (Westminster’s) youth programs (and) traveled with the church on youth trips, and church volunteers have served our back-to-school events and helped provide meals to our youth. The church also played an important role in the renovation of The GATE’s building.”
In a January 2013 blog, she looked toward the future.
“Youth are beginning to delve deeper into God's word and get serious about college and future plans, and they are becoming more serious about maintaining positive relationships with their families.
“We have to be sure we are ready to answer (their) questions or have the resources available to connect our kids to what they need the most,” Hall continued. “It means we must remain prayerful about this journey in which The GATE is on and be ready to change as God changes the course.
“It is imperative for us that we always exemplify Christ so that our kids will see Jesus in us.”
— by Heather Peck Travis, freelancer, Nashville, TN
Please give generously. You can give anytime during the year. Make check payable to your local church and note “Peace With Justice" in the "note section"of your check or to give online, click HERE. To get involved, you can contact the Peace with Justice Coordinator in your annual conference. Together, we can work together for a faithful and loving world for all and bring hope for our future.