FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The sometimes controversial program, "Advance Peace Fresno" is getting a multi-million dollar grant to continue its work that creates a safer community.
"Whenever you can imagine losing a child, actually losing a child, 10 times worse than you can ever imagine," said Aaron Foster, Advance Peace Fresno Program Manager.
After losing two children to gun violence, Foster fought to bring Advance Peace to Fresno to save other people from the pain he felt.
The group works to stop gun violence before it happens, dispatching into the community to find people involved in gun violence and providing them with mentorship and counseling to promote peaceful conflict resolution.
"Just being a part of the community, everyone that works here has a strong relationship in our community, people trust them enough to tell them things before they happen," said Foster. "So we get an opportunity to be proactive through love again. Just have to be consistent with love, and the outcome is a decrease in violence throughout our city."
The Economic Opportunity Commission, grants, and the city fund the program. On Friday, they were awarded a major federal grant of $2 million from the Office of Justice Programs Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative.
A report from UC Berkley's School of Public Health and Center for Global Healthy Cities spelled out Advance Peace's impact on Fresno in 2022.
The report found the program helped reduce gun violence by 40% in southwest Fresno, prevented 66 potential shootings and saved lives by stopping armed conflicts, achieving a 75% reduction in gun-related deaths for Black males under 35 in southwest Fresno during the fellowship program.
However, Advance Peace has at times been controversial, with the city changing how it funds the program after an employee was accused of leaking details of a police investigation to gang members.
Those issues appear to have been left in the past. Fresno EOC CEO Emilia Reyes says the program doesn't just save lives -- it has an economic impact on the city.
The hope is with the grant, the program can expand its influence in the city.