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James Clark has a perfect recipe for getting to know your neighbors.
Set up a grill.
Light - Charcoal
Light some charcoal.
And put on some hot dogs.
Saturday - Afternoon - Clark - Vice - President
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Clark, vice president of community outreach at the nonprofit Better Family Life, was offering hot dogs to passers-by at Christ’s Southern Mission Baptist Church in North St. Louis.
Even the mailman dropped by to see what was going on. He joked that he planned to stop by for hot dogs at five other churches having similar cookouts for neighbors that day.
“That’s what I am talking about,” Clark responded and laughed.
The cookouts are part of “Grill to Glory” — a partnership between local churches and Better Family Life to build community in North St. Louis, an area plagued by violent crime.
% - Homicides - St - Louis - North
In 2016, almost 70% of the homicides in St. Louis occurred in North St. Louis, according to an analysis of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department data done by the news organization The Trace and the Missouri School of Journalism.
That chaos creates a sense of hopelessness among people who live in that area, Clark said. And he thinks churches are the institutions best positioned to host barbecues and in doing so, change the psyche of residents who might otherwise be drawn to crime.
Magnet - Conversations - Members - Church - Bible
“It becomes a neighborhood magnet and conversations begin. Members of the church are there, and they are not aggressively trying to push the Bible. They are just saying, ‘We are the church. We’re here. Come fellowship with us. And if you are free tomorrow morning, why don’t you come to service?’” Clark explained.
So far, Cook has helped organize events at more than 60 churches around North St. Louis.
Grill - Glory - Offshoot - Better - Family
Grill to Glory is an offshoot of Better Family Life’s “neighborhood opioid triage,” in which the group tries to help addicts in open-air drug markets by handing out...
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