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North Minneapolis church buys neighboring gas station in effort to curb crime

These days, a stop at the Marathon gas station on the corner of West Broadway and Fremont Avenue North feels different for some.

MINNEAPOLIS — At the Real Believers Faith Center church in north Minneapolis, church leaders are taking community safety into their own hands with a unique investment. 

They bought the neighboring Marathon gas station back in November, where there have been more than 60 911 calls in just the last year, according to call logs from Minneapolis police. 

These days, a stop at the Marathon gas station on the corner of West Broadway and Fremont Avenue North feels different for some. 

"There's been a big change, yes," said store manager Melik Tolbert. 

Gospel music rings out from the station's speakers, replacing the sounds of gunshots and fighting amid drug deals, according to Tolbert. 

"They just made it hard to, you know, shop here," he said. "They made it hard to get gas here." 

But it's not just gospel music reaching those who pull up to the pumps. 

"We also play the church service on Wednesdays and Sundays. We play it live so when people come in they actually get a little piece of the message that's happening next door," said Tolbert. 

It's part of what Bishop Larry Cook and his wife Dr. Sharon Cook call a long-awaited change, having purchased the troubled gas station, which is now part of their ministry at Real Believers Faith Center. 

"Being able to touch people without them having to come to the church necessarily, but the church still touching them," said Bishop Cook. 

It's a neighborhood corner Bishop Cook says people from all walks of life share. 

"The gas station is where families come; its where people that are hurting come; its where people that want to work mischief — that's where they come," said Bishop Cook. 

People, he says, who are seeking a place to belong, and for some, seeking hope. 

"That's what me and Dr. Sharon are here to do. We're here to care about the city," said Bishop Cook. “We are here to make a change and help the hopeless.”

It's an investment in property that Bishop Cook hopes is just the beginning of something different, on the city's north side. 

"I'm willing to talk to any senior leader, pastor, anybody who wants to do anything to affect change in north Minneapolis. I definitely want to hear them," said Bishop Cook. 

"It makes me more proud to just be here on this block. Now I don't mind," said Tolbert. 

Bishop Cook plans to pump the money from the gas station back into the community by funding a new women's shelter and halfway house for men, opening later this year. 

Meanwhile, the state attorney general's office says the neighboring Winner Gas Station is still under investigation.

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