Oakes delivers Mission Banquet keynote address
Oakes delivers Mission Banquet keynote address
WM Police Chief praises ‘ value’of mission services to community
“Love in Action” was the banquet theme for the 8th Street Mission for Jesus Christ annual fund raiser.
West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes picked up the theme and testified how he’d seen love in action at the mission and then announced to a full house at the Eugene Woods Civic Center new developments in the police department’s DRN program.
“In the early ‘90s, the Mission was really small,” said Oakes. “It could only hold a few men. There were no other resources. We had compassionate arrests, it’s 2:00 a.m. on a freezing cold night and a man standing on the road, what is more compassionate? Do I take him to a warm jail on a loi- OAKS
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tering charge with a hot shower and a warm place to sleep and the next day a judge will likely set him free? Or we can call Brother Larry at 2:00 on the morning and he finds them a place to stay.”
Oakes said 8th Street offers more than an overnight stay for men. He has seen the mission serve hot meals to senior citizens and families with children.
“I had the honor of going down there on a Saturday morning several months ago,” said Oakes. “There are women and children and men from our community getting fed that may not have had breakfast. You are talking about something absolutely necessary to our community. How do we do that without the mission?”
Oakes has seen many facets to substance abuse and has watched the mission grow and develop to handle rehabilitation. From tiny beginnings it has spread out to cover a “whole block” at 8th Street and Broadway.
“I’ve seen the ravages of substance abuse. Ask the men at the mission, if it wasn’t for here where would you be, arrested? It is important that you hear the value it is to your police department. These are men with no desire to be in trouble but hopelessness has led them down a road and 8th street is a hand up from that path. These men are out in the community working hard.”
The chief recommended donating to the mission because the good results were easy to see. The mission directly reduces homelessness in the Wonder City.
“A lot of charities we could donate to you can’t see the results,” said Oakes. “You hope the money is being used right. But every dollar you put here you can go see the results.
“I get a call every year from Councilwoman Ramona Taylor needing a homeless count for the city to get certain housing grants,” continued Oakes.
“I have to go to the mission for the count because we don’t have homeless on our streets. Have you seen anybody sleeping under a bridge or on a park bench in West Memphis? Even at the truck stops and someone is hitch hiking we can give the mission a call and Pastor Larry Brown helps them. We are blessed to have so many resources here because most cities have no options. With your support this pillar of our community will continue to grow. We cannot live without this place.”
Oakes shifted his attention to the WMPD Divert program. The city is one of just handful partnering with the FBI to reduce crime.
Recently the department began positing surveillance videos of crimes in progress on Facebook and asks the community for help in identifying the suspects. As that has met with great success, Oakes now hopes to help at risk youth get a job instead of an arrest record.
“Crime is driven by poverty, poverty is driven by the loss of God in families homes — that’s the whole story,” said Oakes to an ovation. “You do not need a Ph.D. in criminal justice to tell you what happens.”
“Look at our community and what we can do to help. We are hurting for jobs.
When I was 14 years old I was pumping gas.
Teenagers used to work fast food, now you see it’s all adults trying to support families. Where does a 16 year old in West Memphis go for a job?”
Oakes described how drug dealers exploit unemployed youth to expand their distribution network. Youth become ensnared. The chief cast a vision to divert youth from crime.
“He’s desperate for something and then he runs into the police and now he has a felony record,” said Oakes.
“It’s a viscous spiral and that is how poverty leads to crime. The divert program is drug interdiction designed to identify the big guys and send them off on a federal case. Then we identify the kids and instead of charging them divert them to community partners that will give that needy child a job. That will clean up the neighborhoods. You’ll see that in actin by August.”
“I’m interested in something
for our kids to do on
Friday and Saturday nights,” said Oakes. “I’m looking for local pastors to say I’ll open my church on weekend nights to show movie and have popcorn, hot dogs, and to be there with mentors. Where do they go now but to walk the streets? Churches have the facilities, I can provide mentors through the police.”
Mission March Graduate
8th Street Mission for Jesus Christ Executive Director Pastor Larry Brown presents James, the latest mission graduate, with a certificate recognizing his completion of the mission program. James is just one of several men who have completed the program in recent months.
By John Rech