Groups responding to continued violence

By Ed Brock

As police continue to search for suspects in Clayton County's latest incident of youth violence, two community groups say they're trying to do something about the situation.

The family of a young girl who fell victim to violence last spring have formed a foundation to help young people. Also, the Cobb County-based community organization New Order plans to open a branch in Clayton County.

Last week the Krystal Williams Foundation held its first community meeting to gather support for a youth center in Williams' name. Williams was a 14-year-old Forest Park High School freshman who was shot and killed a party in April.

A crowd of about 60 to 75 people showed up for the meeting despite pouring rain, said Williams' grandmother Patricia Holden.

"We have a lot of volunteers who really want to work with the children but we don't have a building," Holder said.

Williams' mother Michelle McWhorter said the meeting was a start and she thinks the community will get behind the foundation's mission.

"I would hope so, because it's not getting no better," McWhorter said.

McWhorter cited Friday's shooting at Morrow High School that injured 21-year-old Antwan Lemon of Jonesboro and 18-year-old Christopher Benton of Morrow and the suicide two weeks ago of an area teen as a sign that the stress face by young people is increasing.

"Every week it just seems like something," McWhorter said. "You can't go to a football game é kids can't step out the door."

Lemon and Benton were shot when an unknown person began firing into a crowd gathered at the school after a football game. So far no arrests have been made, Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner said.

Holder said the foundation is still working out the details of the youth center, but she estimates they'll need more than $400,000 to purchase and renovate a building to house the center, possibly in the Jonesboro area. They hope to open the center early next year, possibly ahead of the construction of the first of six recreation centers the Clayton County government is set to build.

The Krystal Williams Youth Center would not be in conflict with the county's centers, Holder said.

"What I would love to see is more centers," Holder said. "We can't have enough community centers for the children é You've got to keep growing kids with something to do."

Call (770) 603-1835 for more information on the foundation.

On Saturday New Order founder Gerald Rose will hold a press conference about the creation of his organization's chapter in Clayton County. Rose said he's also worried about divisions between Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell and Sheriff Victor Hill. Authorities must show unity among themselves to help the community deal with violence, Rose said.

"I feel right now that Clayton County is in a state of emergency," Rose said. "The Clayton County Chapter is going to be very visible in the community."

The press conference Saturday will be at 3 p.m. in front of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro.