SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A Shreveport church is bringing together men of all ages and from all walks of life for a boot camp meant to inspire hope, build positive, faithful foundations and develop compassion.
Galilee Missionary Baptist held its first training session Saturday.
The next one is set for 6 p.m. June 14-15 at the church at 1500 Pierre Ave.
"It takes a man to teach a boy how to be a man," pastor Darryl Webster, the boot camp's founder, told those gathered Saturday.
He made the trek from his congregation in Indianapolis to lead the first session at Galilee Missionary Baptist.
Close to 100 men of all ages attended the public gathering.
Webster believes constructively changing men in the community begins with unconditional love.
"We say regardless of who you are, your race or your creed, we're all men and we're going to love you."
The boot camp comes just days after the fifth fatal shooting in Shreveport within two weeks.
Galilee Baptist is nestled in Shreveport's Allendale neighborhood, the latest area of the city hit by gun violence.
Men need to have a safe space where they feel comfortable leaving their fears, anxiety and doubt at the door, Webster said.
"I think what's missing across America is a safe environment where boys and men can come together and talk about their unresolved issues and their internal hurts," he continued.
The boys and men in attendance Saturday were separated into different squads, which are meant to keep the men accountable for each other.
"When young men come together with this amount of men, it's a chance for mentoring," Webster said. "It's a chance for coaching. And it offers positive affirmation."
Jerod Jones, an assistant squad leader, said he's thrilled to be serving as a source of inspiration and optimism for a group of young men.
"We want to plant that seed of character. We want to plant that seed of honesty," the Galilee Missionary Baptist member said.
"We want to make sure we reach out to kids and spread it through the community."
Cultivating respect, compassion and empathy among Shreveport's youths has to be done one person at a time, Jones said.
"If you reach out to one kid and get that kid to reach out to another, it starts growing exponentially."
To register for the next men's boot camp, call Galilee Missionary Baptist at (318) 221-2629.