Cook County Board to give $5 million to non-profit to help combat gun violence

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle made the announcement Friday at an anti-violence rally organized by the Austin Peoples Action Center.

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Nathan Wallace, whose 7-year-old daughter Natalia Wallace was fatally shot over 4th of July weekend, cries during the “Let our Kids Live” rally against gun violence at the Austin Peoples Action Center on the West Side, Friday, July 24, 2020.

Nathan Wallace, whose 7-year-old daughter Natalia Wallace was fatally shot over 4th of July weekend, cries during the “Let our Kids Live” rally against gun violence at the Austin Peoples Action Center on the West Side, Friday, July 24, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Cook County Board will be giving $5 million to a local non-profit to help curb gun violence in 25 of the city’s “hardest hit communities,” Toni Preckwinkle announced at an anti-violence rally in Austin Friday.

Metropolitan Family Service will use the money for violence prevention and interruption work through its Communities Partnering 4 Peace initiative, which works to reduce violence and gang activity.

The $5 million for the Metropolitan Family Service is pending approval from the county board.

Preckwinkle Friday said it was not acceptable for children to be surrounded by and die from gun violence.

“When I read a newspaper account of a death in one of our troubled streets, I have to ask, ‘Did anyone try to stop this?’” the Cook County board president said.

“With this $5 million investment infusion into Communities Partnering 4 Peace we hope the answer will be, Cook County is doing its part.”

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle speaks during the “Let our Kids Live” rally against gun violence at the Austin Peoples Action Center on the West Side, Friday, July 24, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Friday’s “Let Our Kids Live” rally was organized by the Austin Peoples Action Center and was attended by several local leaders and the parents of children who were recently killed by gun violence.

Nathan Wallace, who lost his 7-year-old daughter Natalia at a Fourth of July party nearby, broke down in tears recounting the loss and how his other children have been trying to cope.

“It eats me up every day that I have to wake up and see my other three kids and know one of them is not there — it’s hard, really hard,” the single father told the Chicago Sun-Times. “She could’ve been anything and we will never know now.”

Wallace urged people to put the guns down before it’s too late like for the two men who have been charged with Natalia’s murder.

“We have to something about [gun violence] as a community and we can do that by bringing the youth together have them understand what is really going on out here and hopefully the community can be a lot better,” he said.

Others at the rally, included Myesha James, mother of slain 3-year-old Mekhi James; and Prince Jackson, brother of 13-year-old Amaria Jones, who was killed while dancing in her living room.

Cynthia Williams, CEO of Austin Peoples Action Center, said the organization has helped raise over $20,000 for all three families for burial costs and other needs. Some of the money also went toward relocating some of the families out of Austin.

“Somebody killed [James’] 3-year-old baby and we had to bury that baby, we had to provide the resources to bury that baby. She didn’t have no insurance,” Williams said. “And it makes me angry that this is something we have to do. It breaks my heart that I even have to say, ‘Here’s a check for $10,000’ but this cannot replace her 3-year-old baby. We have to stop these killings.”

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Cynthia Williams, CEO of the Austin Peoples Action Center, speaks during the organization’s “Let our Kids Live” rally against gun violence on the West Side, Friday, July 24, 2020. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South and West sides.

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