County approves a $100,000 anti-violence initiative backed by Commissioner Mackey

Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday morning voted to provide $100,000 to the Light House Foundation for work with youth in an effort to reduce community violence.

Most recently, one of Commissioner Warren Mackey’s priorities has been addressing gun violence in Chattanooga. He and fellow Commissioner Katherlyn Geter, District 5,  offered strong support for funding the Light House Collective, an organization that aims to mentor, motivate, equip and protect the city’s youth.

“It’s past time for the county government to listen to the needs of the people in these communities that are hurting and angry,” said Commissioner Mackey, who represents District 4. 

“County government needs to stand up and bring resources to help mitigate the trauma faced for these families. We’ve been asleep at the wheel and have not been engaged in the lives of our neighbors. It’s past time for the Hamilton County government to get involved.” 

The $100,000 will be allotted to the Light House Foundation this year, with an option to renew over a three-year period, and will come from federal stimulus funds provided to the county from the American Rescue Plan. The money will be distributed through the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

The funding comes in the wake of a continued wave of violence in Chattanooga since the Sept. 23 Grove Street attack where seven women were shot after leaving a community event in their neighborhood. Two men were shot the same day. Of these nine, two of the women, ages 37 and 21, and one man, age 21, died after suffering fatal gunshot injuries.

Commissioner Mackey said he wants to take some of the money funneled into prisons and invest it in more proactive solutions that can help keep people out of the prison pipeline. 

“When seven women have been shot, a line has been crossed,” Commissioner he said. “It is beyond time for the county government to stand up and get involved.”

For Light House founders, community activist LaDarius Price and Olivet Baptist Church Pastor Chris Sands, the initiative is all about motivating young people and equipping them with the resources they need to succeed. 

The Brainerd High School graduates, who have been investing in youth for years, describeLight House as “a group of young professionals in the city of Chattanooga that provides mentoring and life-skills training to youth and young adults within said city of Chattanooga and its surrounding areas.”

Sands and Price say their services could include weekly mentorship, college tours, nutrition and mindfulness classes, mental health services and more– depending on need. They say they plan on partnering with other community groups as the Light House Collective grows.

During a “Stop the Violence” community event he hosted at the Kingdom Center on Oct. 5,  Commissioner Mackey pressed Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger to publicly pledge to combat gun violence.

“Can we count on you and get your word that you’re going to work with us and help us address the violence in the black community?” asked Commissioner Mackey.

“Certainly, or absolutely,” responded Mayor Coppinger.

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey (left) greets members of Moc Valley Prep, a local mentorship basketball program, during a “Stop the Violence” community event he hosted at the Kingdom Center on Oct. 5.