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Fayetteville grants to help community groups offer positive alternatives for youths

Program aims to make neighborhoods safer, steer students in right direction


“The Purple Beauty” is on the go, and it’s not just for show.

The refurbished surplus school bus rolls out from the Raeford area with purpose every Friday and for occasional outings during the week to provide mentoring and study assistance for young people in Hoke and Cumberland counties.

Alberta and Al Lampkins bought The Purple Beauty for $3,000 to use for their mobile Fayetteville-Raeford CARES Mentoring Movement. It’s now equipped with extra power to get the job done.

The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization is based in the Hoke County seat.

The Lampkinses are among the first recipients of funding from the Fayetteville Police Department's Community Safety Micro-grant program. The couple, who were allocated $5,000, are among 32 applicants who received grants recently announced by the city.

Other community groups that received grants include multiple Community Watch groups; 71st Classical Gentlemen of Distinction, a mentoring and “dress for success” advocate; Creek 4 Kids Community Outreach Group for its “Knowledge Is Power” program focusing on East Fayetteville; and several groups that work with youths on challenges such as self-esteem and bullying.

“It’s going to allow us to expand,” Alberta Lampkins said of the grant. "Five thousand is going to go a long way with our program."

The Lampkinses’ organization is an affiliate of the National CARES Mentoring Movement.

Alberta Lampkins, 53, said she believes that the city approved her application because some of the areas her organization serves are prone to crime, especially among young people after school lets out for the day.

“Even though we’re based out of Raeford, we do a lot of work in Cumberland County,” Lampkins said. “There are areas we have been in where there has been some crime. We’re trying to stay in tune with what’s happening, with what’s going on. Just listening to that, we’re really working on trying to keep kids off the streets.”

Lampkins said there are not many local programs that focus on youths during after-school hours.

A community-based advisory group reviewed applications and recommended how an overall $50,000 would be distributed in the initial round of Community Safety Micro-grants.

The maximum award for an individual or community group was $1,500, according to a city news release. The maximum for a nonprofit agency or a community group that partners with a nonprofit agency was $5,000.

The grant program targets neighborhoods in the 28301, 28303, 28305 and 28314 ZIP codes.

“I think at some point you’ve got to do something,” said Chris Cauley, director of the city's Economic and Community Development Department. “And this is a City Council trying something that might be a little bit out of the box and a little bit different than just adding more police officers on the streets and trying to have the community buy in and be a larger part of the solution. I’m very confident that we’re going to see positive movement out of this.”

Cauley said he hopes the initiative will prompt community volunteers to network.

“We’re hoping that we have some passionate individuals who get together and create some sustainable group efforts, to create some nonprofits,” he said. “Right now, there’s not a lot of nonprofits that actually work in the space to reduce community violence. And one of the intents of this program — and this isn’t a lot of money — is to help create those nonprofits. Because if we can get them to do all the paperwork, put it all in, they can work with the city on some larger grants in the future.”

Cauley said city officials looked at similar efforts in Charlotte, including some of the mistakes that city made in the process.

“But all in, I’m hoping that we see from this very small investment some tangible impacts. We’re not going to clear the nationwide violence issues that are happening, but we can get more people involved in their community, more adults engaging with kids and helping them see what their future could look like if they made smart choices. I think that’s some of the stuff we’re going to see out of this with just $50,000 going out.”

According to the city, the mission of the Community Safety Micro-grant program is to help fight crime by supporting ideas, activities and programs led by individuals and organizations that might not be eligible for traditional grants.

Alberta Lampkins firmly believes that the program will make a difference and help reduce crime.

“It’s also going to be able to bring some education to our communities about ways we can prevent crime,” she said. “Other recipients offer different things. So many are able to educate the community on safety tips. That’s one of the key things that has come out of this.”

Lampkins said she and her husband will use their $5,000 award in a potential partnership with Cumberland County Schools for tutoring and study assistance programs. She said they will be able to buy some of the supplies they need.

Those include things like T-shirts for youths and a tent they can set up outside the bus for additional space. They also could hire a summer intern to help with programming and offer stipends to volunteers who help the couple.

Lampkins believes that bringing something to the table played a role in securing a grant.

“We are a mobile program,” she said. “Our youths, if they’re in rural areas or areas where there is no access to transportation, we can bring the program to them.”

Al Lampkins, 55, said the air-conditioned bus is a place of comfort for children to be. It even has a refrigerator.

“It does pretty good on gas,” Lampkins said

He said they got the idea for The Beauty Bus from a church in Buffalo, New York, that refurbished a camper for its mentoring program.

“It looks like a classroom, but it’s not a classroom,” Lampkins said. “A lot of children don’t have access to Wi-Fi. We can show up in a community with Wi-Fi.”

The bus has long desks on each side of the interior with electrical outlets and purple and red seats. Purple and orange storage bins on an upper rack hold accessories.

To date, Alberta Lampkins said, the program has helped at least 50 youths. If the couple can establish a partnership with schools, she added, they potentially could work with another 75 students.

The Lampkinses began planning for the program in 2018 and launched it a year later.

“Once the pandemic came, we realized that children were struggling with school,” Alberta Lampkins said.

That’s when they purchased the bus.

Starbucks gave them a $5,000 donation that was used to renovate the bus. Best Buy donated four laptop computers, she said.

‘Super blessing’ for Massey Hill

Stella Mullen, 57, chairs the Community Watch program in the city’s Massey Hill neighborhood. The Fayetteville native said her organization received a $1,500 micro-grant.

“I look at it like a super blessing,” Mullen said. “Everything now is such a cost. This is an extra bonus we didn’t count on, but I appreciate it.”

Her group has about 17 volunteers, but there should be a lot more than that, she said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mullen said, it was “a good 20 to 25. We’re not really that big this year, but we’re hoping to come back.”

As part of its outreach, Massey Hill Community Watch runs a program called TIGER, which stands for “Teaching, Integrity, Gratitude, Essential, Responsible, Skills.”

“We have been doing that for several years now,” Mullen said.

She and her husband, she said, have been “doing it on our own. We’re not a nonprofit.”

Activities for youths include cooking classes, gardening classes, artwork – “just kind of having positive activities,” she said.

They coach 10 to 15 youths at a time.

The mission is to keep them out of mischief on and off the streets and give them something productive and creative to do as they grow up.

The funding “just comes out of our pockets,” she said.

She said the biggest need is a larger pool of volunteers.

“We want to provide positive activities for kids who don’t have positive things in their life,” Mullen said. “Now with summer being here, we’re seeing so much need for kids to come. They don’t have to worry about the cost.

“When a child comes to participate, we just ask that they come to participate and try to learn,” said Mullen. “We’re looking to be successful. It’s something nice and positive for the kids to have in the community. We do have summer programs and summer camp at Massey Hill Recreation Center, and that’s a cost. We saw that parents couldn’t afford to put their kids in summer camp. We decided to have a monthly program.

“We’re just looking to provide something positive for the children in the community.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, youth, crime, grants, mentoring