After an uptick in gun violence in Albany, and the death of a 15-year-old girl, community child care leaders fear for the safety of their young children. And some are changing the way they operate for the summer.
Pastor Charlie Muller, of Victory Church and the JC Club, is suspending his free meal program for the time being. Last Friday, a shooting on the corner of First and Quail Streets, left five people injured and one person dead. It happened right outside the JC Club, and a stray bullet went through Pastor Charlie's office window.
"A community program that’s been so positive throughout the years, and for the last eight years we’ve had more violence on our corner than any other corner." Pastor Charlie said. "Right now we just had to suspend to see how the corner is monitored at this point."
And he says he's still unsure about hosting his summer program for kids. "If the danger and the shootings continue, we will have to be creative on how we will do that. We feel like to have the kids come here and even just gather to meet to go out of the city, it might not be too safe." Pastor Charlie said.
The JC Club has been offering grab-and-go meals through the pandemic, and they deliver meals to childcare centers in the community. Pastor Charlie says they did 1,800 meals out of that center last month.
But now he says his staff members feel unsafe, especially after a bullet went through the office window Friday.
He's been speaking with police officers, and community members, to come up with solutions. He had a meeting Wednesday night to brainstorm ideas.
"My suggestion for a couple of years now is to put police officers in this office, we will give them an office." he said. "Do we have to bring in our own armed guards? Do we have to bring in armed guards? To feed children in the community!"
Now other community members who receive meals from the JC Club, are in a tough spot.
"We don’t have a kitchen here, so that was a big help to our bottom line having them deliver for free nutritious meals and our kids really enjoyed it." said Demitris Fullard, the Owner and Director of Infinite Care daycare, which is down the street from the JC Club. She said she's looking into other options for her summer program.
She said she's been at her facility on Quail Street for 16 years, and says the violence has never been this bad.
"Between last summer and this summer is the most violence we've seen." Fullard said. "Definitely the bullets, we’re worried about the safety of our children playing, never, never had that happened."
She showed us where stray bullets hit the siding or backyard fence in previous shootings. Thankfully no kids were hurt then. But now, she's keeping the kids inside for the summer.
"We are not going outside to play just yet, we are going to wait until hopefully some of this dies down -- which is kind of hard because the weather is finally breaking and we are stuck inside!" Fullard said.
She said she's worried about the safety of her students and staff.
"I am. I definitely am." Fullard said. "I already put a call in to my broker like 'hey can you keep an eye out to see if there are any other places?' Because after 16 years, even though I love this community, I love the families and the children I serve, I just can’t risk it anymore. I can’t."
Pastor Charlie said it would be difficult to move his JC Club to another location, because he has put a lot of money into the facility to create a commercial kitchen for the meal program. But he is looking for solutions to keep his programs going, so he can continue offering a positive outlet for kids.