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Pastor McClain, volunteers put their faith to work

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POSTED August 16, 2009 12:25 a.m.
Thank God for people like Quincy McClain and the dedicated volunteers who have devoted their Friday evenings this summer to mentoring kids.

McClain is the pastor of Southside Christian Church. It is a small congregation that not just embraces The Word but walks the walk.

They are in the epicenter of one of Manteca’s most unique – and struggling – neighborhoods. It is where young hard working families as well as those who have worked all their lives and are simply trying to enjoy retirement live. It is also, unfortunately, a neighborhood with gang members.

Before you read further, don’t think you neighborhood is immune from the influence of gangs. The most brutal Manteca gang incidents in recent years – near fatal stabbings and shootings – have occurred in the Land of the McMansions in both East Manteca and south of the Highway 120 Bypass. And, for the record, the gang members lived in homes that once sold for $500,000 plus.

This is why you should pay heed to what Pastor McClain and her small army of volunteers are doing.

For the most part, the Southside Christian congregation was immune from the fallout of gang members. Sure there would be an occasion tagging but that was it.

They came to the conclusion that although they were small – their congregation is smaller than 50 folks – they had an obligation as Christians and citizens of Manteca to reach out.

A few years back when Manteca Police conducted a major crackdown in and around nearby Southside Park to give gang members notice they were taking the neighborhood back for the law-abiding residents. Police noted they may have won the battle as the gun play that was happening three times a week has become rare and far between but the war was far from over.

The only way victory could ever be within reach was to reach young people before gangs did.

It’s tough to get people who are law-abiding citizens to understand how kids – including their own – can be susceptible to the influence of gangs as even an 8-year-old.

The turf war – or more precisely in Manteca’s case the advertising  war over red and blue – several years ago started dragging in third and fourth graders who would get harassed and attacked because they were simply wearing red or blue while walking to and from school. It doesn’t take kids long to start thinking they’d be safe by seeking out protection from those who offer it.

Toss in having time on your hands after school and in the summer plus the fact there are a number of single parents or those who are simply struggling trying to survive holding multiple jobs and you have the ingredients that help gangs thrive.

That is when Pastor McClain came up with the idea for Friday Unity in the Neighborhood. It was simple. Plan wholesome activities – ping pong, basketball, and such - in a safe friendly environment with nutritious food plus a different them each week to expose kids to good health and study habits, gang prevention officers, plus arm theme with information about available  diversions such as youth groups and such.

Well over a hundred kids – and often much more – have been showing up like clockwork on Fridays since the start of summer for three hours of FUN.

It has been made possible through generous donations of business people who are also struggling as well as individuals. They all understand the investment – and the small scarifies they’re making now in either donations or time – will ultimately pay big dividends down the road.

The beauty of reaching out as Pastor McLain and her congregation have is that they may never know how big of a difference they have made in a kid’s life.

Some call it investing in our future.

Pastor McLain and her volunteers call it something else – blind faith.
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