PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC)–There have been more than 45 shootings across the city of Petersburg this year.
In response, people from all over the Tri-cities came together today to celebrate the fourth annual Stop the Violence event, held until 7 p.m. Saturday near Third Baptist Church.
Belinda Baugh, the pastor of New Divine Worship Center and the organizer of the event, said she saw a need for fun and peace in the community.
“Our city was being impacted tremendously by gun violence. Our young people were dying and it had gotten to the point where people were afraid,” she said. “People had started not wanting to come out of their homes.”
Donald Young said he lost loved ones to gun violence, including his cousin.
“At the time he was around 18 years old. Shot several times. I had another cousin that was shot 27 times, he survived,” he said.
He set up a table at the event to share some of his poetry. He’s hoping his words will inspire others to keep the peace.
“Not only are you killing the person that you’re killing, you’re also killing the people that love them,” Young said.
Therman Brown said he donates bounce houses for the event every year, because giving kids a safe space to play is the key to a tight-knit community.
“I think the violence is terrible,” he said. “This event actually shows that people can come out and they can communicate. They can congregate. They can be with one another and have no incidents or drama.”
Baugh said the goal is to help families grieve and to find closure.
“We have not forgotten you. We remember your pain and we’re in it with you,” she said.
Last year more than 300 people attended the event, said Baugh. One of the goals is to have more people come out every year.