MINNEAPOLIS - Where there is tragedy and triumph in the city, most likely you will find a group that strives to stop the violence.
MAD DADS, which stands for Men Against Destruction Defending against Drugs and Social Disorder, has been in Minneapolis for 15 years. On Thursday night, the group took time to celebrate its work, and remind people there is much more hope than heartache roaming our streets.
"Some of the things that people don't see are that communities are changing," said VJ Smith, the group's founder.
MAD DADS offers a number of programs that provide support for families and youth in turmoil. It even sends representatives on troubled bus lines to make sure people, especially youth, don't misbehave.
Smith's passion is getting men engaged in their communities.
"And if every man who is out there would give a kid a book instead of a gun, we wouldn't have a problem," he said.
Some of the people who work at MAD DADS also used their services to pull themselves out of life's gutter, people like Alonzo Elem.
"I've been clean 18 months," said the 42 year old father. "And actually it's the first time I've been clean since I was nine."
A recovering addict and former gang member, Elem now speaks about his troubled past to anyone who will listen. "I constantly would see me every day, it kind of helped me remind me where I came from," said Elam.
What he's learned means more to him than any drug that he ever put into his body.
"People make you happy. The richer you are, to me, is the more good people you have in your life," he said.
And while 15 years have passed, the group says its work is just beginning.
"We get discouraged. We get hurt. We get tired, but we get up and we keep moving," said Smith.
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