Community gathering today aims to combat violence in Columbia

rfriedman@thestate.comSeptember 5, 2013 

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— A rally and prayer vigil have been planned for Thursday in response to what some in Columbia see as a recent uptick in youth violence.

The Unity in the Community Rally and Candlelight Vigil will be held from 6-8 p.m. today on Palmland Drive in Columbia’s Bluff Estates neighborhood.

The event, hosted by Bible Way Church of Atlas Road, will feature food and entertainment from 6-7 p.m., followed by the candlelight prayer vigil, which will remember victims of violence. Speakers will include Mayor Steve Benjamin and Pastor Darrell Jackson Sr. Representatives from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department also will attend.

Andrea McCoy, director of Bible Way Church’s external communications, said the goal is to help young people in the community make better choices. She said recent gang-related incidents in Columbia — among them the August shooting death of 21-year-old Jarret Jackson, whose funeral was held at Bible Way Church — triggered the idea for a community response.

The church is hopeful that the rally will help get the word out about its various outreach programs to help curb violent crime. Participants will be able to sign up for Generation NOW and Visionaries, boys’ and girls’ programs designed for ages 9-19, offered through the Bible Way’s youth development office. Information also will be available on a peer pressure program called Proud Choices and on the church’s teen pregnancy prevention initiative.

In a statement from his department, Sheriff Leon Lott commended the church and others who have partnered with his department to make Lower Richland safer. He added that community partnerships and involvement are vital to preventing crime and capturing criminals.

For more information about the Unity in the Community Rally and Candlelight Vigil, contact Bible Way Church of Atlas Road at (803) 776-1238.

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