Four nonprofit groups apply for gun violence prevention cash

Which organizations applied for gun violence prevention cash?

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The Village Lansing

Bid: $279,500 — including $225,000 for six employees

The Village Lansing was one of two nonprofit groups that put in a bid during the county’s first round of applications. It was formed in 2019 by Erica Lynn and her husband, Michael Lynn Jr., and works to reduce gun violence among middle and high school students (and ages 18-25) by “welcoming them to a safe environment and supporting their needs,” according to its application.

The nonprofit reportedly held “fellowship” events across Lansing in the wake of a deadly 2019 shooting, provided one-on-one mentorship programs at Everett High School and employed “real-time conflict resolution” that led to a decrease in tardiness, truancy and tensions between students, according its application. Last August, The Village also opened a “resource center” in the Logan Square Shopping Plaza, which hosted a widely attended vaccine clinic this year and has also served as a welcoming space for families impacted by gun violence to congregate.

The Village also claims to be the only organization in Lansing that is “actively standing in the gap with those affected by gun violence” by providing direct mentorship opportunities and emotional and educational empowerment by building connections to community resources.

Lynn Jr. said he’s “uniquely equipped” to reach at-risk teenagers that law enforcement cannot, citing numerous “ceasefire agreements” that he helped coordinate between would-be criminals. According to its application, the group has already been working closely with 10 to 15 people ages of 17-25 — many of them “influential” to gun violence — to de-escalate neighborhood tensions.

County officials had initially planned to award the contract to the Village in September, but the agreement was abruptly pulled from the Commission’s agenda without public explanation.

Lynn Jr. is a former firefighter who is suing the city of Lansing and Mayor Andy Schor for alleged racial discrimination. He’s a former co-leader of the local Black Lives Matter chapter and has been one of the mayor’s most vocal critics on his talk show, “Merica 20 to Life.” Lynn Jr. has also accused Schor of meddling behind the scenes in September to dissuade county officials from approving the initial contract for the Village — a claim that Schor has repeatedly denied.

People Ready Activating Youth (P.R.A.Y.)

Bid: $279,500 — including $232,000 for nine employees

People Ready Activating Youth bills itself as a “united group of men and women, working to empower and activate the next generation into their God given identity, talents and futures.” In addition to its acronym “P.R.A.Y.,” the word “God” also appears several times in its application.

The group — founded and managed by lifetime Lansing resident Terrance Cooper — formed in 2015 and gained its 501(c)3 nonprofit status late last year. It works closely with other local organizations like Turning Point of Lansing, The Work Prep and Mt. Hope Church Missions to “provide mentorship, resources and a strong understanding of God’s love to every child regardless of their social classification, race, gender or family history,” its application states.

Cooper touted past experiences working at Everett High School to mediate conflicts between students, as well as organizing athletic programs and a camp at the Gier Community Center. He said P.R.A.Y. also raised $2,500 for families that were displaced in a recent apartment fire and brought together more than 400 Greater Lansing kids last summer for a basketball camp.

The group’s agenda for Advance Peace included recruiting a passionate team of community members who can connect with high-risk teenagers to build an “ecosystem of love, trust and support” under a unified goal of “peace and safety.” Among its key plans: Build a presence in local schools to monitor and prevent gun violence; provide therapy and life coaching to teenagers and host public “Lansing Unity Events” to help bring the community together.

P.R.A.Y. also listed plans to use the county funding to rent out a downtown office space for a “control center.” It would also feature a café stocked with snacks and drinks, as well as a “fellowship” area for kids to congregate and discuss community matters.

Schor and Everett High School Principal Benjamin Botwinski wrote letters of support for P.R.A.Y.

Eastside Community Action Center (470)

Bid: $265,000 — including $210,000 for six employees

The Eastside Community Action Center — a Lansing-based nonprofit formed in 2007 and headquartered on Dakin Street — was the only application to include a bid that was lower than the county’s maximum allowance; its plan would lead to a savings of $14,500 in the first year.

Led by licensed social worker Stan Parker, ECAC bills itself as “a hub for charitable and educational activities” designed to help “answer the needs of vulnerable children and adults.” Its website describes its purpose as providing “social, educational and spiritual assistance to children and adults, with particular attention given to those who are vulnerable or at-risk.”

Its application also noted that more than 28,000 families, children and older adults have been assisted by the organization to date, including through community-based programs to help former inmates adjust to life outside of prison, support for survivors of domestic violence, as well counseling for those dealing with divorce and substance abuse. It also operates “Teen Life,” a project complete with “rap sessions” that provides counseling as an “alternative to street life.”

Among its Advance Peace plans: work with gang members, leaders of several organizations that are “involved with conflicts that lead to gun violence,” school staff and law enforcement to target a specific cohort of “active shooters” with daily contacts that involve study regimens, relationships with mentors, mental health support, career development and travel opportunities.

ECAC also wants to incorporate a physical fitness regime for program participants that includes boxing and basketball, as well as access to a 24/7 hotline for “damaged males aged 12-16.” 

The application also included specific plans to “work closely” with the Lansing Police Department to de-escalate violence. Edward Forrest, a former Lansing Police captain and local minister, serves on ECAC’s board alongside retired educators and other Lansing residents. 

Peckham Inc.

Bid: $279,500 — including $225,000 for six employees

Peckham is a “vocational rehabilitation organization” that provides job training opportunities for people with significant disabilities and other barriers to employment — providing those with physical, cognitive, behavioral and socio-economic challenges a platform to learn new skills, participate in the workforce and “enjoy the rewards of their success,” according its website.

The company formed in 1976 and since 1987 has used revenue from government contracts and manufacturing operations to support a “human services-focused” business model that includes “comprehensive, trauma-informed and evidence-based services” across the state of Michigan.

Among its programs: “The Youth Career Academy,” an alternative education program for at-risk and court-involved teenagers who have been unsuccessful in traditional settings; “Right Turn,” a career development program for young adults in communities with high poverty and crime rates; and “ROOTS,” an array of services that prepare former inmates for employment.

Peckham wants to expand the “person-centered” model within its existing Prevention and Reentry Services Department to launch Advance Peace next year, largely by tracking territorial disputes and gang violence and then building more relationships (and having daily check-ins) with those who are at risk of engaging in gun violence in Lansing — disrupting violence before it starts by “changing mindsets and behaviors” and through “data collection and monitoring.”

Letters of support attached to Peckham’s application to the county were signed by 30th Circuit Court Deputy Administrator Scott Leroy, 7th Circuit Court Administrator Rhona Ihm, Lansing Police Captain Robert Backus and Ingham County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Darin Southworth.

Peckham officials noted in their application that the company is currently being sued for two “baseless” allegations of having violated the Fair Labors Standard Act. Details were not listed. The application also estimates total project costs of $318,000 — above the county cap of $279,500, meaning the company is prepared to absorb a $38,500 loss to launch the program.

Advance Peace program on track to launch in Lansing in February

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