IF YOU GO
What: Save Our Seed Impact Summit, hosted by Kingdom Harvest Church
Where: Carpenter's Cowboy Church, 3616 Rossville Blvd.
When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
Information: Call 394-4222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Boys to Men retreat
Where: Second Missionary Baptist Church, 2305 E. Third St.
When: 9 a.m.-noon. Saturday
Information: Call 624-9097
Omari Lawson was 12 years old when gang members asked him to join them. He refused.
"It wasn't needed in my life," he said. "It would be a bad influence."
Omari, now 13 and a middle school student in Hixson, is among more than 100 young people expected to attend the Boys to Men retreat at Second Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday.
There is no age limit because gangs are recruiting children before age 10, said organizer, minister and retired Brainerd High School Principal Frank Jones.
As long as they are potty-trained, they can come, he said. Male parents and caregivers also are encouraged to attend.
Kingdom Harvest Church will host its own event, the Save Our Seed Impact Summit, on the same day in a bid to deter youths from gangs.
Both events come after three homicides and 14 shootings in less than two months. Police have said they believe at least two of the shootings were gang related. Both occurred within a mile of Second Missionary Baptist.
Two-thirds of the city's 25 homicides in 2011 were blamed on gangs.
Jones and retired police officer Lee Stewart organized the Boys to Men retreat in an attempt to give young people positive Christian male role models and mentors to combat evil influences.
"The men of God can reach these boys," said Stewart, who was a Chattanooga police officer for 28 years. "There is hope for our kids."
Gang task force members Capt. Edwin McPherson of the Chattanooga Police Department and Boyd Patterson, coordinator of the city initiative, will be among the speakers at the retreat, as will a former gang member.
The church also will be full of black professional men such as Ronald Harris, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's director of workplace diversity and a minister at Second Baptist, and Dr. Paul Payne, a local dentist, all with a desire to provide leadership for youth, organizers said.
The ministers will give awards to youths doing good deeds in the community and say they will follow up by scheduling football and baseball games with youths.
Forum panelists at the Kingdom Harvest Church event will include Chattanooga City Council members Manny Rico and Andraé McGary. Bishop William Simpson, church pastor, will be the moderator.
Second Missionary Baptist pastor Paul McDaniel said he hopes for the best for youth.
"You plant ideas and thoughts," said McDaniel. "You show concern. You try to stimulate young people to be what God created them to be, and you will have to wait for the result."
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...