SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Community Renewal held their Haven House Leaders’ Rally to celebrate connections, cooperation, and community. Community Renewal brings neighbors and residents together, across zip codes, to bridge safer, connected communities.

Personal stories were shared and leaders were acknowledged to highlight the impact of the program. Community Renewal focuses on three strategies, the renewal team, Haven House, and the Friendship House.

“If the grass needs cutting, we’ll mow it. If they’re sick, we’ll bring them a meal. If it’s raining, we’ll take their children to school with ours. So it’s about self-giving,” said Russell Minor, director of the Haven House, a loving neighbor program.

Minor says the Haven House is a group of citizens who are brought together to create solutions. He says, “When we meet our neighbors with a smile, it’s the beginning of love.”

Another strategy, Friendship Houses, is more than an after-school program. According to community coordinators, they are an extension of home.

“We try to reach those kids, you know just by engaging showing love, showing them that we care. Giving them an opportunity to join a program that provides more opportunities from around the community for them,” said the community coordinator for the Cedar Grove neighborhood, DeTrevon Moore.

The home offers homework assistance, food, fellowship, and networking.

“Some kids they don’t necessarily know what they’re good at, they don’t necessarily know where they’ll excel in life, so we try to introduce them to small things like changing tires or you know it will be handy to them along the way as they continue to find their way and when they find their way, we come in and amplify as much as we can,” said Moore.

To aid in the success of these programs, Community Renewal says partnerships with first responders, like Shreveport Police and the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office are crucial.

“We started a relationship with community renewal, and I think we got more from that than they’ve gotten from us. It’s just so humbling to go into the friendship houses and see the commitments that the people who work in there, that they have to the kids,” said James E. Stewart, Sr. Caddo Parish District Attorney.

Safe communities and neighborhoods allow the foundation for transformative work because according to Minor, the power of Community Renewal is the people.

“They are the wind beneath our wings. They are the heartbeat. Without neighbors loving other neighbors, and doing that work that nobody sees, they are the heartbeat of this city.”