NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (WTNH) – It has been a difficult year trying to find a new normal during a pandemic and the changes that have meant for all of our lives. Many say that one thing that has sustained has been the community.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, there is a story of how surrounding yourself with a village can take us through even the most difficult times.
A year ago, Marquise Reid dozed off on PCP.
“I was doing stuff to wrap stuff, but the stuff was still there,” Reid said.
Today, Reid is a completely different man. It shows how much a year and a relentless love can make a difference.
“Now I hang out with positive people who get positive results. At the time, I was getting negative results, ”Reid explained.
Honda Smith says she saw an opportunity to intervene in Reid’s life, a second chance she wishes someone had given to her own sister, Annette Smith, who was murdered in 1997.
“I wish someone back then had helped my sister who was on drugs, dust, crack and saved her before her life was taken from her. So, I want to be that person for Marquise because my sister has not been reached. To let her know someone cares, ”Smith said.
It took time and years to reach out, but something changed inside Reid in March. He took Smith’s outstretched hand and she led him to the community center she created on Valley Street in New Haven. Together, they provide a safe place for children, parents and neighbors to have a hot meal, play games, learn life skills, access career counseling and meditation.
The center officially opened its doors this month.
“Since then, we’ve had over 341 people walked into this building, and it’s been remarkable for a month,” Smith said.
Reid says there’s one constant that keeps people coming back, including him. The reason he can sit down with his sons and refuse the call from the streets.
“[Honda’s] here with us every day. She is our motivation, ”said Reid.
This Thanksgiving, he’s thankful to be alive. It was through the community center that Reid met the Cunninghams: Jordan and his father George.
“I have been to all the prisons in the state of Connecticut. I ate time, sold drugs, sold guns, ”said George. But in 2005, George found absolution.
“I got shot, I was on my deathbed. I had exploratory surgery so I saw things that changed me. It was the love of Christ,” said George. .
He knows it takes a village. He is relieved that his son has found a way away from the life he led himself.
“I am the youth ambassador here. I’m about to start producing a sports show in high school, ”Jordan said.
They both attribute the community they found to Smith and Reid and others who joined them. Jordan found the opportunity to paint the walls, organize events, and mentor his own friends to help them do what he did – get off the corner.
“Everyone tells us we can do it, but nobody shows it to them, so I’m showing them you can do anything,” Jordan said.
The center is located at 333 Valley Street.