Members of Winterfield on the Move Against Drugs blew whistles and held signs Saturday to celebrate three years of fighting crime in Columbus.
“It’s been rewarding,” said the Rev. Willie Phillips, president of the group. “We have parents stop by, their children got in trouble and they want us to go to court with them.”
Phillips joined about 20 other supporters on the corner of Brown Avenue and Cusseta Road shouting to motorists traveling through the busy intersection. They waved some homemade signs that read “Save the young people, too many dead, too many in jail,” and “We have lost our spiritual moral and inverted our values.”
The group has come a long way since Phillips was led by God in 2007 to take an anti-crime message to the streets. Phillips said the message came after his nephew, Timothy Davis, was fatally shot in the back of head after he answered his door in Phenix City.
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“God touched my heart,” Phillips said. “He said get some signs and stand on the streets. Get the message on it that it’s time to stop this killing.”In the early days on the streets, Phillips said people cursed at them and some would spit at him. But people who said thank you and smiled made all the difference. “If it wasn’t rewarding, I would not be here,” he said.
George A. Hampton, 87, is one of the oldest members of the group. He realizes the group’s work not only helps one area of Columbus but the entire city. “We’ve got to work together toward making things better for our kids,” he said. “I’m going to be here as long as the Lord lets me.”
Mary Smith, a longtime supporter of the group, said the devil is always busy stirring up trouble. “We’ve got to be busier,”she said.
Robert Loving, a former member of the city’s Public Safety Advisory Commission, said anything that can be done should be considered to keep young children out of jail. “Whether we realize it or not, they are our future,” he said. “The ones that are not going to jail, give them some positive ideas.”
Councilor Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson was among the sign wavers.
Although the group has been on the Airport Thruway and other areas to fight crime, Phillips said the group has spent the last two years in the Cusseta Road area. The group uses their own money for supplies and trips but gets some support from people they encounter. Phillips, an associate minister at the nearby Garden of Prayer church, doesn’t forget those who hear the group’s anti-crime message. “Some of the young people I keep in touch with them to see if they are staying out of trouble,” he said.