More than 120 people crowded into the parking lot of the Neighborhood House of North Richmond around noon Friday for music and food. They also learned more about the Men and Women of Purpose, the new community-based nonprofit a that offers programs aimed at reducing violence, recidivism, homelessness, drug abuse and chronic unemployment.
“The turnout, the support, the momentum we’re building with our work—it’s all just amazing,” said MWP’s founder and program director Antwon Cloird.
The Men and Women of Purpose came together earlier this year, Cloird said, assembling about a dozen people with various expertise in mental health, probation and other social service fields. Cloird, a longtime local activist who was one of the foremost leaders of the “Tent City” anti-violence movement in 2006, said persistent violence and state plans to reduce prison populations call out for a new approach.
Cloird and another one of the group’s leaders, Bryan Hancock, said key partnerships have come together to give their group solid footing. Hancock said financial and in-kind contributions have come in recent months from local unions, Sims Metal Co., Chevron Corp., and Neighborhood House, where MWP has office space.
“We are viable and we have broad support,” Hancock said. “Hopefully, the city will support us financially too.”
Neighborhood House of North Richmond Director Barbara Becnel was on hand Friday, and spoke in support of the nonprofit group.
Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and Councilmembers Jovanka Beckles, Corky Booze, Jeff Ritterman were among those on hand. Chief Chris Magnus was also there, as were numerous church and civic leaders from various neighborhoods. Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia was also in attendance.
Cloird and his group have been lobbying the City Council for financial support in recent months. In April, MWP leaders asked the council for more than $200,000 to expand services in the city, services Cloird has said include case management for residents in need, support groups, mentoring, education, crisis intervention, job readiness and outpatient substance abuse treatment.
The council did not approve the money, but praised MWP and encouraged them to continue to build local partnerships and establish a track record of service to be in better position to receive local funding in the future. Councilmembers told Cloird and his group that they should apply for more grants as well.
On Friday, Councilman Booze told the crowd that he is convinced that MWP is a wise investment, and urged them to come to the council again.
“When the Council to Men and Women of Purpose that it is willing to help, I say step up to the plate!” Booze said from an elevated stage. “You got the first vote right here,” Booze added, tapping his palm to his chest.
To see more photos from the event, click here