GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - An ATV group in North Gulfport formed in honor of a young man shot to death in July wanted a Christmas event that gave away more than food and gift cards. It wanted to give hope for a better future without violence and with a lot of love.
“We hope that the young males will find something better to do like put the guns down,” said Cecelia Bates. Let’s ride, let’s have fun, let’s spread cheer instead of spreading grief, because his loss hurt a lot of people.”
Bates is the cousin of 23-year-old Quincy Smothers who was fatally shot in July. The giveaway on Sunday was coordinated and sponsored by NAWF Gulfport Ryderz, and the intent is to establish a different kind of community legacy.
“The neighborhood is looked at in not a positive light,” Bates said. “And, so, we’re trying to turn that around.”
And it seems to be working.
“Look. It’s peaceful. It’s peaceful,” said Shanae Franklin. “No police. No violence. It’s as peaceful as it can be. I mean, we’re all getting along. It’s a blessing. And it’s a blessing that we can all get together and enjoy each other’s company.”
Cars encircled the Good Deeds Community Center as volunteers handed out food boxes and gift cards from $10 to $100. The group was prepared to serve 150 people, some of whom had been waiting close to six hours in line.
Zena Coleman’s family was the first in line, and she knows the Smothers family.
“We need a mindset on all the violence going on in the neighborhood,” said Coleman. “We as a neighborhood should come together. And I think what the family’s doing will make a great impact.”
Bates also added “We’re just happy to bless people. It’s a blessing just to be able to bless other people.”
The group also had a turkey giveaway for Thanksgiving and plans to have both events next year.