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Albany community center planting seeds of peace

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WRGB) - In the West Hill Neighborhood, seeds are growing. A community garden is one way the Frank Chapman Memorial Institute is trying to help its neighbors, and in turn promote peace.

“There are a lot of people who are hurting, they're hurting out here now. They think there's nothing to do, no place to go,” said Norma Chapman, founder of the Frank Chapman Memorial Institute which has become a community center. She is also an Albany County Legislator.

She wants people to know they can come to the community center for educational programs, food, to play and most of all, for support.

“That’s the only way we can stop the violence. It starts with one which is yourself and from there you help the next person,” said Preem Cabey, the volunteer youth program director for the Frank Chapman Memorial Institute.

Cabey said the community center’s efforts work because relationships are built.

“The seeds are what we are giving to them in the message. The message is be safe, the message is that you're worth something, the message is you deserve the best, the message is work hard and you will see your seeds grow. Most of all the message is, you’re loved” said Cabey. “I’m telling them to be safe because it may help them if they’re in a tough situation to hear my voice, or hear their own voice telling somebody else to be safe.”

“I’m praying that what we’re doing here at the community center is going to be able to teach and try to bring back a sense of pride but we need the funding, we need some help,” said Chapman.

Chapman said the community center partners with Cornell Cooperative Extension on the garden, the city on a youth education program, houses a senior program, offers free breakfast and lunch to children, provides support programs for families dealing with trauma, and offers gym space, among other things. It is planning a festival for the community on August 11th. She said the center and the programs run on donations and volunteers. She said she is always looking for both, including grant writers.

“When you hear about programs like that it just gives people hope that may not have hope on their own,” said Albany City Councilman Derek Johnson.

He is advocating for more programs like the ones coming out of the community center.

“I’m a perfect example of the programming we say we need,” said Johnson. “The community took ahold of me and they directed me in the right direction that I needed to go.”

He said he is hopeful there will be more city funding for youth and community programs in the future. He said the Mayor has said there can be a serious conversation about that when the next budget is being developed.

Johnson said there also needs to be more federal funding for education and mental health services to promote healing after the trauma the Albany community, and other communities, have experienced.

He said that finding solutions is personal for him. He knew Elijah Cancer and Kahlil Barnes, who were both recently killed.

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“I’m walking around with a piece of them on the inside. I want to be part of change,” he said.

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