Standing beside those we serve — A recap from our trip to the Global Homeboy Network Gathering

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In 2008, United Way of Olmsted County convened the Community Gang Initiative. 83 organizations claiming to do gang intervention work attended that first meeting. The chair rotated throughout the years — with the position being held by the County Attorney, the Executive Director of the Rochester Area YMCA, the editor of the Post Bulletin and numerous school personnel. 

I remember sitting in some of those meetings who would not allow Project Legacy youth in their organizations because they were gang members. It always struck me; it would seem that, in order to do this work, you must first be willing to walk and stand beside those you say you want to serve. 

However, the Community Gang Initiative provided Project Legacy with some of our earliest grant funding which enabled us to work with both youth and parents who were gang involved. Over time, the 83 organizations around the table soon dropped to 50, then 30, until only a handful remained. 

Along the way, someone gave me the book, “Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Greg Boyle. They said I needed to read it based on the work Project Legacy was doing. 

I read it. I re-read it. I read everything I could about Homeboy Industries and Father Greg Boyle. Finally, I had found the organization and the man who shared our mission and core values. 

Now, for the past five years, Project Legacy has brought our youth participants, alumni and mentors to the annual Global Homeboy Network Gathering. This year, board members from Project Legacy attended as well. Our work together has evolved to the point where we share information and receive technical and programmatic assistance from the Homeboy Network. 

The journey from 2008 to present has been incredibly difficult, but reading Father Greg’s words, listening to him and sitting together with likeminded people from organizations around the world encourage us to continue — knowing we are in the company of others who share our vision and those who are living proof of the hope for a better future.

Project Legacy’s core values are love, forgiveness, trust, compassion, social justice and tenderness. In a world that has become increasingly divided and hateful, we strive to be a place that lives and reflects these core values. We seek to offer a counter to what the world is screaming. It isn’t easy most days, but it is necessary. 

If you are looking for a place to belong, a place to work to resist hate and be love, justice peace and hope, come see us. Meet our youth, lend a hand, give your time or make a contribution. 

What we’re doing is working. 

We believe this world can be changed by love, and we need your love to continue building this movement. We are grateful for you, and for our global partners through the Global Homeboy Network. 

This year’s annual gathering was one to remember. Take a look at the pictures from the last five years at the annual gathering and get in touch to learn more about how you can get involved!

We are honored to announce that Father Greg Boyle and two homies will be traveling to Rochester to headline our first major fundraiser on May 29, 2020 at the International Event Center. Stay tuned for updates!

Karen Edmonds