BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After the riots, the attention of the country was focused on Baltimore.
As WJZ’s Mike Schuh reports, it was during that time that those in Freddie Gray’s neighborhood realized there was a simple solution to some of their problems.
In a neighborhood so violent, the city has marked the safe pathway to school — there’s an oasis.
These are the children of Penn and North, Gray’s neighborhood.
“All the problems that led to Freddie Gray are just outside these walls, absolutely, just outside these walls,” said Erica Alston. “We had to get the kids off the playground on Monday because there was a shooting.”
To get in you have to read a book, or be read to, for 15 minutes, Alston said.
This is the Penn-North Kids Safe Zone — a place where a kid can be a kid from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
The volunteers are recovering addicts, something Alston known all about.
At 23, with a fresh masters degree and an 8-year-old, she found herself a crack addict and homeless.
The Penn-North Community Center open its doors to her and she learned how tot stop using drugs and now works here.
So when this neighborhood was on fire, stores burned, people were angry and scared — Alston had an idea to help the next generation.
“When everyone was on national TV and saying there were no recreation centers, no place for the kids to go, I said to my executive director ‘why can’t we be the place to go?'” she said.
Everything to build this center was donated, but now it needs some more help.
“We’re open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and so to try to not burn out the one person we have dedicated, it’s very important to have money to keep the doors open,” Alston said.
She created a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the center.
“We have 10 percent of the $50,000 we’re asking for,” Alston said.
The money would be used to hire two more people as 100 kids a day and their parents now count on a place where a brighter picture can be drawn.
To donate to the center, click here.