NATCHITOCHES, LA (KSLA) - In the wake of recent violence in Natchitoches, including the kidnapping and murder of a 6-month-old baby, a group is working to keep kids off the streets and steer them on the right path.
The group, Block Builders, is a youth mentor program that teaches personal responsibility, and the value of education and respect.
The group was born from the Rock Island Baptist Church after the pastor said a group of students in a mid-week service class said they needed a place where they could discuss their real issues.
"They said pastor, 'you know what, we understand the Bible as best we do, but we have real issues, real problems. And we want to talk about those and we don't think the church is the best place to talk about them'," said Pastor Conway T. Jones.
Jones says recently the city of Natchitoches has seen a wave of violent crime.
"I've buried 3 or 4 kids that were near and dear to me. Children that were just caught up in a lifestyle and just misunderstood."
He says the court system has used Block Builders for juveniles instead of sentencing.
"Rather than send them through the judicial system they send them to Block Builders for mentoring, for the kind of hands-on care that really makes a difference in their lives," said Jones.
CEO for the group, Katrina Demars, says their work is near and dear to her heart.
"About 11 years ago I lost my little brother to violence so it inspired me. I always had a passion for people, and in that passion, I found what my purpose was. So my purpose is to encourage others," said Demars.
On top of the meetings they have at a local community center, Demars says they are also planning other events like a back to school pool party.
And while Block Builders have grown from just the church, the church is still working on other events to help the community out.
The pastor says next weekend they will also hold a Youth Summit scheduled for Sunday-Thursday. With guest speakers and a town hall meeting to engage the community and come up with solutions to the city's problems. They will have a panel with law enforcement, school board and other public officials.