Two young Akronites are fulfilling their passion by relying on their faith in order to give back to the community and help children.
Yvette Thompson, 30, the founder of Fadia Young Women’s Program Inc., and Deonte Brunson, the founder of God’s Chosen Ones, held their second annual community event Saturday.
About 900 residents attended the program at the East Community Learning Center on Brittain Road.
The auditorium was jampacked when motivational speaker King Locust, a local hip-hop rapper, took the stage. He told the mostly high school-aged crowd to stay focused. He told the girls to stay ladies and for the men to grow up to be men.
“Be strong and pick your own circles instead of letting others put you in a box and deciding where you belong,” the 38-year-old rapper told the crowd.
LaSalle Harris, 52, the executive director of Women’s Recovery Ministry, moved the audience when she talked about her life as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
“I started smoking crack at the age of 25 and was addicted to drugs for 23 years,” she said. “I straddled the fence and was in and out of treatment centers and prison.”
She told them about unhealthy choices and how to live responsibly with accountability.
Listeners lined up to talk to her after her presentation saying she gave them a lot to think about.
There were also “hot topic” discussions in smaller groups on inspiration and breaking cycles. Younger children were in the gymnasium running football and basketball drills. There was a talent show with cash prizes and a fashion show featuring clothing designed and created by organization members.
Thompson, who has her own day-care center and worked in the Akron Public Schools as an educational assistant and supervisor at a Head Start program, said she named the women’s group Fadia because it means “to protect others.”
“I always loved kids, even though I don’t have any of my own,” she said. “I see young girls who don’t know how to value themselves. I try to uplift them and encourage them.
“These young ladies lose themselves and don’t have their own mirror. They think their mirror is only how other people see them.”
She said she tries to reach girls at an early age because she said that’s where reinforcement of self-love needs to start.
Her program has helped more than 100 girls between the ages of 11 to 18. They meet twice a week at the East Akron YMCA.
“Some of the girls have been raped, molested, abused or run away, have low self-esteem and/or have problems making friends in school,” Thompson said. “The girls come to us. They reach out to us on our Instagram and Facebook pages or through others in the program. We’re a family, a sisterhood.”
Thompson said she is fortunate to have a strong core group of volunteers: Nicole Odums, Shalonda Lee, Cavelle Lollar, Octavia Soloman and Amanda Turman.
“When we get those calls in the middle of the night from those threatening to run away or to commit suicide, we can team up quickly to help talk them out of it or get to them as fast as we can,” Thompson said.
Her group works closely with the God’s Chosen Ones group, sharing events and learning how to socialize with each other and to get along. God’s Chosen Ones helps 125 boys and 30 girls. The target age range for the young boys is 7 to 18 and 12 to 18 for girls.
“It’s a calling. God called on me to do a mission and I accepted it,” said the group’s founder, Deonte Brunson, 30, who started the program in December 2012.
“I grew up in the streets and never really knew my father. So, what I teach my kids is how not to do what I did — growing up too fast — and how to gain control when they go through puberty and not chase so many different things for physical happiness.”
Brunson, a father of four children, ages 12, 6, 5 and 4, leads the program that offers breakfast for students before school, an after-school program and an entrepreneurship program to help kids earn their own money.
The girls design and make their own bracelets and put them up for sale. The boys mow lawns and landscaping in the summer and shovel snow in the winter.
“They learn to give back by helping others, especially the elderly, cutting their grass and shoveling snow for them,” he said. “The children have also volunteered at more than 30 churches this year.”
Brunson has a store on Hammel Street where the students can do their homework on computers and unwind playing baseball, basketball and football in the nearby park and field.
The two childhood friends don’t actively seek funds for their groups. Rather, they rely on volunteers and mostly pay for things out of their own pockets.
“With God, anything is possible, if you use the spirit to direct you,” Brunson said. “We do so many different things you would think it was an army on board. But with God, you don’t need an army.”
To find out more about the organizations, call Thompson at 330-849-1050 and Brunson at 330-760-9978.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.