Hands raised to volunteer

Did you know that April 18-24 is officially declared as National Volunteer Week? This week celebrates volunteers around the country and encourages everyone to pitch in. Here at Brooks Law Group, giving back to our community is very important to us. It’s why we put on events like our Turkey Giveaway each year. But how can you change an entire community through volunteer work? We want to share the story of a local organization that’s done just that. Let’s look at the story of Boots on the Ground in Lakeland, and see how you can spark change too.

The State of Chestnut Woods in 2020

Chestnut Woods, a community in Lakeland, has struggled with gun violence and violent crime as far as memory can serve. In January of 2020 alone, police were called 5 times in response to drive-by shootings and other gun violence crimes. The community overall is uneasy due to the steady stream of violent crime. This makes it very difficult for young people in the community to participate in outdoor activities. Basketball and other sports at the park were a thing of the past. Friends looking to hang out would have to do so with extreme caution.

The streets of Chestnut Woods were typically littered with garbage and refuse. You would find unfinished construction, untended-to trash, and unclaimed belongings all around the community.

That’s where Boots on the Ground comes in. Pastor Charles Williams and members of Bethel Gospel Tabernacle (BGT) in Lakeland, FL started this neighborhood watch group. Pastor Williams and other members of BGT wanted to promote change—to clean up the streets both metaphorically and literally. Boots on the Ground was the first step in the process.

Boots on the Ground and Community Involvement

For BGT, the goal was straightforward. Churchgoers aimed to band together in spite of the increasing violence in the community and stand against it. Meanwhile, they wanted to beautify the community and use the outreach ministry as a platform to preach the Gospel. To do this, they needed some help, so they reached out to local police for support in generating the movement.

For law enforcement, their journey back into the community, after a tumultuous start in January, was a bit unnerving. It was a great change of pace, however, to be back in the community to promote the community’s welfare. Since 1995, drug crime and community violence in Chestnut Woods had steadily increased, which prompted an amplified police presence. Now, since 2015, things are beginning to settle down. According to Lakeland PD, Boots on the Ground is to thank for the safer streets.

With the help of law enforcement, Pastor Williams and BGT got to work marching the streets. They chose to dress in matching camouflage and march double-file up and down community streets on a daily basis. They asked everyone in the church to sign up so that they could establish rotations throughout the week. Members march through the neighborhood together regularly, praying aloud for the families and homes along the way. When necessary, they intercede to defuse situations that would otherwise turn violent. From October 2020 until January 2021, Chestnut Woods didn’t report a single drive-by shooting or gun violence to Lakeland PD.

How Anyone Can Change Their Community

Generating a movement and promoting community change can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task at first. But with persistence and the right tools, anyone can have an impact on their community. Here are some practical ways to get the ball rolling in the right direction in your own community:

  • Establish a group – The first step to generating a cultural change is to identify your resources. Seeing who around you is willing and interested in achieving your goals is the first step in progressing towards them.
  • Reach out to community services – Every community has centers where outreach and community involvement take place. Oftentimes, this is a church or family center, like BGT or a YMCA. Getting involved with these is a great way to find resources and like-minded people who want to make a difference.
  • Connect with local government and law enforcement – Like BGT did in Lakeland, involving local organizations is a great way to bolster your efforts and strengthen your team. Having the government on your side is very effective in promoting growth and change. You might be surprised at how many civic members are excited to get behind such things!

In 2021, the timing couldn’t be better to have a hand in changing the community landscape. Now, while people are most isolated, is the time to band together and promote a change in our communities.

Brooks Law Group in the Community

Brooks Law Group is proud to support many local organizations, charities, and non-profit organizations. You can find a list of these here. To learn more about the organizations we support, or to request a sponsorship/donation, please email us.

One of the greatest ways we can serve our community is by helping those injured in accidents. If you have been in a vehicle crash, slip and fall, or other accident, contact us today.

Steve was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As was the practice for new doctors his father worked day and night during his medical residency at Charity Hospital there. Steve comes from a long line of doctors. His father, his grandfather, his great grandfather, even two uncles were all specialists and/or surgeons in their chosen medical specialties, including internal medicine specialist, obstetrics / gynecology, neurosurgery and general practice / surgery. His great-great grandfather was the Surgeon General of Ohio during the Civil War.