“Truly a model that is renewing the entire city”

One of the first things that Dianne Schick realized and liked about Community Renewal is that this is a work not just for a few, but for all. “I like that Community Renewal is building relationships that go across the city. This is truly a model that is renewing the entire city,” she said. “Just look at how the crime rate has gone down in the Friendship House neighborhoods. But Community Renewal is not just for those communities – it’s for all communities. We need it in Southern Trace just as much as any other neighborhood does.” Woody and Dianne Schick were introduced to Community Renewal by a friend who suggested they take a tour. He did and then she did. (CRI tours are conducted monthly.) They liked what they saw and got involved. Today they are Haven House leaders and Dianne has hosted a block party, brought friends on CRI tours and helped with other events. “God calls us to love our neighbors and that can be a challenge when people are so busy. But building relationships is important. When you don’t care about your neighbors, that’s when things start to fall apart,” she said. “We all need relationships and especially relationships outside the family. God made us to love and help other people get out of our self-centered souls.” Dianne hosted a block party in her cul-de-sac last fall. Although retired, she and Woody are still busy themselves, including raising their teenage grandson. But she found that the effort it took to put on a block party was well worth it. “We were able to really visit and...

Friendship House inspires graduate to help others

LaSherrica Burks is facing the future with confidence and courage – thanks in large part to the Friendship House Youth Club in her neighborhood. Recently turned 18, and a 2017 graduate from Booker T. Washington High School, she has big dreams that include giving back to the community. “I asked God for my purpose in life and I think my purpose is helping people. I love people and I love special needs children,” she said. LaSherrica lives with her mother, two sisters and brother in the Allendale neighborhood – across the street from the two Community Renewal Friendship Houses there. The family lives in a home built by volunteers with the Fuller Center for Housing, another outstanding CRI partner. LaSherrica is a top student in her class and is active in student government, cheerleading, 4-H and more. “I loved being at the Friendship House from the first day. They supported me and prayed for me and I loved the environment there. It is like a second home,” she said. LaSherrica started attending the Youth Club when she was in the 6th grade. Six years there helped her build self-confidence, grow in her faith and focus more on the needs of others. She is also active in Community Renewal’s Operation HOPE program, which helps prepare students for success after high school. “I am a more caring, compassionate person because of the Friendship House. They helped me grow into a better person and now I want to help others,” she said. “I want to be the reason others succeed. I want to inspire others. Without the Friendship House, I would not...

Crime plummets in Friendship House areas

Crime has fallen dramatically in the five low-income areas where Community Renewal operates neighborhood Friendship Houses, according to recent reports by the Shreveport and Bossier City Police Departments. Major crime has dropped an average of 52 percent in the four Friendship House areas in Shreveport and the one in Bossier City. The Shreveport and Bossier City Police Departments analyzed crime rates in the five areas, comparing crime rates from the year before the Friendship House opened through the end of 2015. “All of our partners — every person, church, business, organization, all of our schools, our city, and especially our law enforcement departments — merit the credit for this major breakthrough,” said CRI Founder Mack McCarter. “But our work is not done. We must take this trend to our entire community. “We have really only just begun. Now after 20 years we know that caring together in a sustained, nurturing, and intentional system can bring a safer city. The results are before us.” Major crime has dropped significantly in each Friendship House area since the first Friendship House opened in the Highland neighborhood 1997:                                                Allendale                                 60 percent                                                Barksdale Annex                  55 percent                                            ...

20 years, 700 children and still going strong!

Sandra Simpson moved into the first Community Renewal Friendship House 20 years ago with a heart for Highland and a passion for helping the children and families who live there. She looks back with no regrets and looks ahead with new goals. “I sit here and fight back tears sometimes when I see what God is doing in these kids. They have learned how to minister to this community and that is so wonderful to see,” she said. “I want them to know God loves them and has a plan and a purpose for their lives. And if they don’t give up, they can see God’s plan and purpose achieved in their lives.” More than 700 children have come to Sandra’s Friendship House Kids Club in the past 20 years and it’s safe to say she has had a positive influence on every one of them. And in working with local churches, businesses, schools and other partners, she has also seen many positive changes in this historic Shreveport neighborhood. “People wondered if we could make a difference here – and we have. People who were once in their own corner now come together and work together and that’s huge,” she said. One example of that is the annual Highland Picnic in Columbia Park. “It’s been such a joy to help dreams become reality. I think of people like Paul, who at one time had no hope, and I helped him earn his GED. I think of Taquilla, who came through Kids Club and was the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated and now has...

Dreams flourish in a CRI Friendship House

Aaliyah Burns dreams of being a doctor. Only 12 years old, she is one of several Friendship House youth who recently participated in a six-week medical careers program. A seed was planted there and Community Renewal has been helping to nourish that dream ever since. That’s one important facet of our work – connecting people, changing lives and then, as a result, transforming communities into places where boys and girls from all backgrounds can enter medicine, business, law, engineering and many other professions. We help them become confident in their goals and competent in their ability to reach them. “I want to go to Northwestern State University and get my diploma and become a doctor because I want to help other people,” said Aaliyah, who started in the Highland Kids Club several years ago and who is now active in the Youth Club. Each of the five CRI target neighborhoods in Shreveport and Bossier City has two Friendship Houses, one geared toward teens and the other toward children. “If I didn’t have Youth Club, I would be sad because I would be bored at home. And I would be more uncomfortable around other people if I had not been in Club.” Operation Hope Director Deidre Robertson, who helps the youth focus their sights on college and career, said the Friendship House helps them find their purpose and develop into responsible adults. “I’ve seen Aaliyah blossom and open up and get more involved. The Friendship House has removed the shyness barrier for her,” Deidre said. “One of my biggest goals here is for us to raise independent, diverse students equipped...
I want the world to know there is hope!

I want the world to know there is hope!

By Ashlee Donnaud 2016 ARA graduate   My life started off having a terrible childhood. My dad went to prison when I was 4 and remained in prison throughout my childhood. I got put in foster care at the age of 13. Then I got abducted and raped, after a year of being in foster care, while walking to a friend’s house. I started experimenting with drugs and got very depressed and started cutting myself. I went in and out of mental hospitals as a teenager. I got kicked out of school around 7th grade for cutting while I was at school. Then they sent me to a school for behavior children and I soon got kicked out of that school as well. I started to do drugs and hooked up with this guy. I got beat up and every bone in the side of my face got broken. I felt like I was dying. I laid down and didn’t know if I was going to make it or if anyone was going to come help me. I was living on the streets and I was selling my body just to get by. I was lost. I didn’t think there was any hope. I ended up in Florida homeless with $5 in my pocket. I moved to Shreveport in 2014 and that’s when my life started to change for the better. I got off drugs and started surrounding myself with better things. I started the Adult Renewal Academy and started having positive people around me. I met a friend when I started the ARA and it was my first friend...