With a record-high murder rate — including five Austin-East High School students who have been killed by gun violence so far in 2021, how — or can — the Rotary Club of Farragut help?
That question was posed recently by RCF president Edward Jones, and addressed by former RCF member Brandon Ross, who lives in the East Knoxville community.
“The program today is an open forum, for discussion and education, so we brought back a former Rotarian, to share, and get us off on the right foot,” Jones said. “It’s a big problem, specifically what we are referring to is the violence as of late in East Knoxville.
“This is not intended to be political, but to approach it from a humanitarian standpoint and it is with that flavor that we would like to go into the discussion.”
Jones shared a short story about a young man, who was walking along the beach, throwing starfish back into the ocean from where they had washed ashore. Another man encountered him and asked why he was performing the task.
“‘If I don’t, they are going to die,’ the young man said. ‘It might not make a difference to the rest of them, but it does matter to the one I threw back in.’
“So we are not trying to solve the problem, but want to have a discussion to see how we could assist in providing or arriving at some solution. There are several lanes of support we could get in, it’s just a matter of deciding what lane.”
Jones mentioned RCF member Bill Nichols by name, as he already is volunteering in the East Knoxville community with Rotary Youth Exchange.
“Bill has a passion for working with inner city schools,” Jones said. “What he is doing is very very important. It is already a program Rotary has.”
“Right now we have kids dying and that breaks my heart,” Ross said. “So what’s the problem? Being completely honest, we don’t have it. I think God does, and we’ve got to get back to a point where we center that around Him.
“I don’t think we need another organization — we’ve got to figure out how to get these organizations to work together,” he added. “We’ve got people in place to fix the problem, but we need resources to do that. I’m not asking you to write a check, but Bill (Nichols) is a perfect example — he pours everything he has into the youth.
“What we have right now, 12- and 15-year-olds killing each other … we’ve really got to figure out how do we grab the youth before the streets get to them.”
Asking “how do we solve that?” Ross answered, “You do what Bill did, find your niche, get in your lane and you drive that lane until God tells you to go elsewhere.”
He suggested Rotarians “could volunteer with already established organizations to better determine what the needs might be. ... They need people with hearts.”
“All you have to do is go there,” Nichols said.