Taking Back Our Neighborhoods-Operation U.P.W.A.R.D. - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods-Operation U.P.W.A.R.D.

By Howard Ballou  - bio | email | twitter

 JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - We told you about the problems plaguing a West Jackson neighborhood in a previous Taking Back Our Neighborhoods report. We went back to the Washington Addition for a look at a program that's taking back the neighborhood, one child at a time.

 It's called Operation U.P.W.A.R.D and it's located on 1000 Winter Street.

Robrelle Murray has first hand knowledge of the perils of Jackson's Washington Addition. She grew up here.

Murray said, "One of the challenges is just to walk by a group of drug dealers on the corner on the way to school in the morning. I mean, that's not quite normal." 

 She continued, "I've talked to children that have been molested. I've talked to children that have been physically and mentally abused...and some of them just seemed hopeless, like they didn't have much to do and so, I was like, we need something for the kids to do."

About 4-years ago, Murray put her words into action. It started with 3 or 4 kids on a tarp in Battlefield Park. They danced, had snacks and heard Bible stories. It didn't take long for word to travel.

"...and the kids just kept coming and coming and coming and there were more kids and I met a pastor who actually owned this building, in line at Walmart, and they told me that I would be free to use their church if I wanted to on Saturdays and that's how we got started in this particular building."

The building is not much to look at right now, but what goes on inside can only be described as beautiful. Instead of being home alone or hanging out in the streets after school, these kids, more than 200 now, come here and take part in a variety of character building activities like field trips, homework help; rewards for good grades.

Murray said, "We have aftercare going, karate classes going for them weekly, so, it takes money, and it's free to them."

The U.P.W.A.R.D. in their name is an acronym for "Urban People Working to Achieve Real Dreams" and barring one private church grant, they rely on their own fund-raising efforts and the kindness of volunteers to make those dreams reality.

 It hasn't been easy. Last September, thieves vandalized their buses; stealing batteries. They were replaced with donated batteries and locks. But it's going to take much more than that to deter the mission of this faith-based organization, because, says Murray, the mission is too important.

"I just think that without something positive and without somebody showing children that they care and helping children to develop the talents and gifts that have been placed on the inside of them, then it's just no telling where they might end up."

Robrelle Murray wanted us to be sure to mention the support her program has received from Hinds County District Attorney, Robert Shuler Smith and Jackson businessman and educator, Dr. Bill Cooley. You can help, too, by calling Operation U.P.W.A.R.D. at 601-592-7060 or 601-572-1068.

We'd like to help you take back your neighborhood. Or, if you've already turned around your community, we want to know how you did it. Just send an email to hballou@wlbt.com.




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