Combatting crime by finding new hope in God

July 20, 1997


Staff Writer

A Baltimore-based organization that battles drug abuse with a combination of spirituality, job training and other life survival services came to Hagerstown's troubled Jonathan Street neighborhood Saturday to teach the community about how the concept can be started here.

When evangelists Althinia Hunt and Vera C. Waters were asked three years ago to visit a public housing complex in Baltimore, they saw children so used to seeing death that it didn't faze them anymore, the two women said.

Hunt and Waters faced the problem head-on, going out on the streets and spreading perhaps the most important part of their message, that those down and out can find hope in God.


Those who were convinced by the message came to the Lexington Terrace public housing complex where they were taught job training skills. Signet Bank in Baltimore donated computers and money to keep the effort afloat, said Hunt.

Today, Hunt and Waters estimate they have assisted 4,000 people in the Baltimore area since they started "Back to Basics."

Saturday, Hunt and Waters spoke to about a dozen local residents at the Bethel Gardens community center off Jonathan Street about how they can start a similar effort here.

Sylvia Bell of Hagerstown said it's scary thinking about going on the streets in the Jonathan Street area to help people see a new way of life. But something has to be done because drug trafficking in the neighborhood is a real threat.

"It's serious. And it's spreading out," Bell said. "We have to do something. We can't live behind these closed doors or we're making ourselves prisoners," she said.

Hunt and Waters gave the group detailed instructions about how to approach people on the street and explain to them about how they can find hope in God. Hunt said volunteers must not badger people about the consequences of not turning to religion, but only let them know that they are loved by God.

Volunteers are provided with "adopt a soul" papers that allows them to sign an agreement with people they meet on the street. In the adoption papers, the volunteer agrees to "do all that is within my power to help you," including helping the person to refrain from committing sin.

As for life survival services, churches can go a long way toward providing education, job training courses and other needs, said Hunt.

"You have enough churches that you could bombard these corners," said Waters.

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