ROSIE'S

GARAGE

RECOGNITIONS

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In 1990, my family reached a milestone of buying our first home in a low income neighborhood. Two months into homeownership, we were caught in gang cross fire. Resident members gathered in the middle of the street to piece together what had taken place. Everyone agreed something had to be done but no one knew how to go about it. I decided to start a neighborhood watch program. The meetings would require that the police meet at our home. The gang members decided to target us once they saw that I was organizing the neighborhood. First, they graffitied my husband's truck with words "keep your mouth shut," and "don't finger us." That incident was followed with rumors of a drive-by that would target our home. My husband borrowed a rifle and stayed up the night to protect us. Luckily the threat did not come to fruition. My interim solution was to offer recreation activities to the neighborhood kids as a positive activity in the neighborhood. Yet I knew that those activities would not be the long term solution to the gang problem. I decided to set out a Saturday morning to personally survey 76 area homes and find a way to deter kids from joining gangs. I spoke to the family about my idea of providing homework support in the neighborhood and how I believed that by offering help, participating students would do better in school, decrease crime and gang activity in the neighborhood and help boost the students attitude toward school and themselves. My husband's truck would not be parked in our garage any time soon. Vowing to shoulder the burden, I went to an abandoned school to load our truck with treasures of desks and chairs. In went the surplus tables and chairs and up went the garage door, a sign that my sister, Victoria and I were open for business. That was the beginning of Rosie's Garage, an after school neighborhood homework location, a safe haven accessible to neighborhood children. What was intended to be a two year project has spanned 18 years of volunteerism and 4 years as a nonprofit. More importantly, today, kids in a neighborhood that once called 1,300 times to the police department in a two-year span, have a safe haven in their neighborhood and no longer feel the intimidation of gang members because they have been phased out. Now, Rosie's Garage is the biggest recruiter of kids.