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Project Impact Enriches Lives of At-Risk Children and Families
By Myra Blackburn, Sentinel Intern
Published July 24, 2008

Just like it takes a village to a raise child, it takes a community organization like Project Impact to steer at-risk children and families in the right direction.

In 1986, Pastor Matthew Harris, executive director and founder, established Project Impact, after his church experienced a drive-by shooting between rival gang organizations.

“When I was in the drive-by shooting, everything I’ve learned was shot down,” Harris said. “I had to do a little transitioning in my ministry to reach children. I would go to funerals for youth who were killed by drive-by shootings. Family members would be furious, screaming and cussing. When you see that, there are no preparations or course that can introduce you to that experience.”

Harris says the major problem within the African American community is that churches are not trained to reach at-risk youth.  So the Project Impact organization serves as a place of restoration where they work with churches around the community to assist at-risk youth and families with counseling, job training, domestic prevention programs and other services where children and broken families do not have to turned to the streets to help them with their problems.

He says most children are growing up in singled parent households accompanied by a mother or being neglected by family members. As a result, these children act out their behaviors in the streets or engage in risky behaviors.

“[There are] 35,000 youth in foster care. These kids have been caught instead of falling through the cracks,” Harris said. “[Unfortunately,] children have a higher chance of becoming at-risk when they are raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, older sisters who don’t have the economic resources to provide for these neglected children, so they have to survive on their own.”

Other situations that can create at-risk children are a large number of kids who come from single parent households, homeless and are living with other friends. As matter of fact, most children would prefer to go to jail where shelter and food is automatically provided.

“These children have it better in jail than at home,” Harris continues. “The jails provide them with health insurance, movie privileges, three meals a day and an overall protective environment that they may not necessarily receive at home.”

Freda Jordon, director of parent education said Project Impact not only strives to keep youth in school, but exposes children to extracurricular activities so they don’t have to end up in a gang.

Jordon said Project Impact works mostly with African American and Latino youth throughout cities like Paramount, Downey, Compton and as far as San Fernando Valley who are on probation. They also work with civil services, courts, schools and parents who want to make a difference in children’s lives.

Project Impact is located on 2640 Industry Way in the city of Lynwood from 9am to 7pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9am to 8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9am to 4pm on Fridays.

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