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Making a Difference: Block parties being held to end violence in Johnstown

Communities in Johnstown are coming together to enjoy block parties in different neighborhoods in hopes of ending gun violence in the city. (WJAC)

Gun violence continues to effect different communities throughout Johnstown.

In this week's making a difference, people are coming together to make sure kids and their parents have something to enjoy this summer.

With a series of block parties, organizers hope they'll join the effort to make their neighborhoods cleaner and safer.

School is out for summer and things are heating up in Johnstown.

You might hear laughter and music on Saturdays in some neighborhoods as block parties are being held throughout the city.

Josiah smith "just a good way to bring people together, have fun, love on each other," Josiah Smith with the New Hope Community Church said.

The Johnstown Neighborhood Boosters Association is putting these together with the help of churches, volunteers and businesses, all in hopes of ending gun violence.

“It’s sad, it's sad because Johnstown is a real good community,” said Hal Dues, community service work supervisor for Cambria County and also helps put the block parties together. “In our time right now, we really need to get our communities together, and if we can take a little bit of that violence and turn it into fun it’s all well worth it."

There have been quite a few homicides in recent years involving teens and young adults.

Like 13-year-old Marquise Martin, also known as Bam, who was shot in the Hornerstown section of the city in December of last year.

“Great thing to bring communities together, to start having children and older adults start focusing on stopping the violence there has been a lot of violence in Johnstown, a lot of young violence. Things like the block party something to calm them down, something to get their mind off whatever they're involved for that particular day. Something to get their mind of the violence and drugs." said Brian Marshall who helps organize the block parties.

Parties have already been held at the Solomon Homes and on the West End.

The upcoming ones will be in Hornerstown, Woodvale, Central Park, Moxham, and Westmont.

Those involved make sure the locations are all cleaned up then families enjoy things like hamburgers, cotton candy, inflatables and more all for free!

"I never saw something with so many festivities,” Tyquell McClinton said. She lives at Solomon Homes. "Something good to get everybody together, have a little fun, laugh, eat, enjoy."

It all started in 2013 in Moxham and just continues to grow.

Organizers hope fun times and full bellies will help kids find something positive to do.

“I see a lot of that.. A lot of people have made mistakes, it’s hard to get back to giving back and this is a way to give back.. If we show a kid, if you get in a trouble we're trying to teach you to not get in trouble and do the right thing,” Dues said.

And help make the community stronger, one party at a time.

“If everyone knew they were loved they wouldn't need to get into violence and drugs. If everyone knew they were loved, there would be no need for that,” Smith said.

“It’s all about unity, you get a lot more done in a group," Dues said.

“Hopefully it turns into a domino effect and spread throughout all of Johnstown," Marshall said.

The next block party will be on Saturday, July 14th in the Hornerstown section of the city on the intersection of Golde and Ash Streets from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.

There are several more planned for the summer. There will be in Woodvale on Saturday, August 1st from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Crucified Church on Maple Avenue.

The next will be at Central Park on Saturday, August 25th from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m., which is located downtown.

Another will be in Moxham on Saturday, September 8th from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. along most of Park Avenue.

The final one will be in Westmont on Saturday, September 15th from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Westmont Baptist Church on Jeffrey Drive.

Organizers would love to get more businesses involved and more donations as the block parties continue to grow each year.

They have a fund through the community foundation for the Alleghanies. You can donate here.

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