Columbus, Ga. (WRBL) – Blake Russell is the Ministry Director at Take the City here in Columbus. His mission, along with his fellow coworkers, is to foster their faith here and spread their beliefs in the community.

“We honor God with this place, you know, to the best of our ability,” said Russell.

On the surface, Blake Russell’s skin tells a different story. One that didn’t involve a lot of Bible verses prior to his work would Take The City. He was a gang member and spend some time in prison. It was never his intention to be part of that world. But even in his mid-twenties, Blake found something in the gang life itself.

“You know, purpose. And this what these young kids find today. And it’s not like they wake up and say, you know, today I’m going to I’m going to join a gang and and be on the run for murder or robbery. No, they want purpose,” said Russell.

The recent up tick in gang violence in Columbus and surrounding areas may be a shock for some. Stopping the violence has become a priority for city and state leaders. Blake offers a different point of view.

“My first reaction was like, Man, what do we expect?” asked Russell.

He points out there’s a lack of engagement with our young people in the community. There’s a need to be invested in the youth during their development which can help them make better choices.

“We’re leaving it up to the system to indoctrinate our kids, which the teachers are tired. They’re worn out. They’re just getting through the day. And so the kids are raising each other,” said Russell.

The appeal of power, and flashy items can easily influence other kids.

“One kid pulls up with a pistol at school. He pulls up with a sack of weed. He’s got money. He’s got on Jordan’s. You know, he’s a part of something that gives him power that’s lucrative, that draws other kids,” said Russell.

Blake says pouring resources into all parts of town can make an affect as well. Citizens of all ages have questions when new and exciting venues come to town, but they don’t choose their side of town.

“You know, why do all the new nice things only come up on the north side? You know, there’s not a ‘Stars and Strikes’ on the south side. Pour the funds and the money and the billions, the millions of dollars of funding the budget that goes into the city. Turn around and say, you know what, let’s just throw 10 million at an initiative,” said Russell.

Overall, city leaders and policies can’t be the only ones to spark change. Russell says it’s on the adults and mentors in the community to pour into the younger generation and show them a different way.

“Take a you take a gang member, a kid, a 15 year old kid from the Eastside, and he’s like, It’s all I’ve ever known. What was that tell you? You need to take him out of that environment and put him in somewhere where he he can see there’s other things going on in life versus just your ten block radius,” said Russell.

Take The City has plenty of other resources available for children, men and women who may need help. Click here to find out more on their website.