Denver anti-gang organization could close its doors

10:51 AM, Jan 25, 2013   |    comments
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"We're really using our youth to take ownership before the gang members take ownership," Roberts said.

She is a former gang member who has vowed to keep other young people from going down the same path.

In 2005, Roberts founded the non-profit organization The Prodigal Son Initiative. The group provides a safe place for kids in Park Hill to go after school, on weekends or anytime they need a dose of positivity.

"We take our kids hiking. We take them rafting," Roberts said.

But in order to make a difference, an organization has to make money. Roberts says funds are so low that The Prodigal Son Initiative could close its doors in as little as a month.

"We're about $60,000 in the hole right now," he said.

Roberts says the shortfall is due to lost grants that either the organization was not awarded or that fell through after initial approval.

The transformation of the old Holly Square Shopping Center, which was burned down by gang members in 2008, brought in a lot of supporters who wanted to see the project through. Now that the project is complete, the offers for funding are drying up.

"That project drained so much of our resources," Roberts said. "We need a bailout. We've won national awards, but it's very hard to engage the funding community right now."

Roberts fears the worst, if his organization closes its doors.

"If we did have to close our doors, it will be sad because we've kept over 400 kids from street gangs," he said.

Roberts is working with a group of volunteers and supporters who are trying to drum up grants and emergency funding. He's hopeful that The Prodigal Son Initiative will continue to make a difference for kids and, in turn, help curb violence throughout the city.

"Gangs don't' have a lot to offer our kids once they've been involved with Prodigal Son Initiative," he said.

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