Saint Rest Baptist Church breaks ground on new youth center and park

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Southwest Fresno church breaks ground on new youth center, park
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A church, Fresno Police and community members are coming together to decrease crime in Southwest Fresno.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Saint Rest Baptist Church is coming together with Fresno Police and community members to decrease crime in Southwest Fresno.

They're hoping to make it happen with a new youth center and park.

Saint Rest Baptist Church is celebrating a milestone. On Tuesday morning they held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new youth center and park.

In just a few short months, the new portion of a plaza will be the hub for kids in southwest Fresno.

Journey Copeland, 11, and her younger sister attend the church, and they are excited about the new area.

"When the park is here we can just come down and play whenever we want," Copeland said.

That's precisely what Fresno Police Captain Mark Salazar wants to hear.

"I think it's a game changer for this community. When you look around there is not much to do, so to have this, it's going to be incredible for this community," he said.

Salazar mentioned Southwest Fresno historically is known for being a pretty violent part of the city. He added about three years ago they were averaging a shooting a day, but that number has dropped significantly.

He credits that to relationships with community members.

"One of the first things we did was partnering with the churches, like Saint Rest Church, to combat the violence, and then we started to see shootings drop. So the last three years our shootings have dropped in half," Salazar said.

He is focused on keeping crime rates down, and the best place to start is with the kids.

"Here this is going to be something they can go to, keep them busy, so they don't get in trouble," Salazar explained.

The park and youth center is just the first phase of a bigger plan for this community.

This phase cost around $1.2 million and was made possible with the help of several partners, including Kaiser Permanente, who donated $75,000.

Pastor DJ Criner believes the new area will change the entire neighborhood by improving the quality of life and hopefully keeping crime rates down.

"You're going to see way more stuff happening in this part of this community all because of something that sparked today," he said.