BAY COUNTY-- Area pastors say they want to hit the local school campuses. They want to be available for help victims of the recent violence, and potentially stop future incidents.
In the last two months, there have been 6 deadly shootings in Panama City. Now, church leaders are stepping up, in what they call a time of crisis. "We are those people that are called on, times like these, to be mentors," New Bethel Missionary Baptist Pastor Parnell Smith said.
More than 30 local pastors are taking the fight to the classrooms, working with Bay District School Faculty, to help students who have experienced trauma over the summer. "The churches want to do this and the churches want to get involved. They want to be there the first day of school. They want to be there and be available for the students to talk with if they want to. Just as a recognition of support," Bay County Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said.
During the first few weeks of school, pastors will be on campus, offering support to those who are related to the suspects or the victims in the latest gun violence. "We are going to walk them though this difficult valley with a good solid word, faith and encouragement. A positive voice versus all the negative voices," Family of God Baptist Church Pastor Kenric Conway said.
The pastors hope their words in the classrooms will spill over to the streets.
Husfelt adds, "A lot of the communities right now are hurting because of the killings that have been going on. What we want to do is make the kids feel comfortable coming back to school and let them know the community loves them and cares about them."
The pastors will be circulating around campuses beginning August 19th, making themselves available to students who want help. The program will be voluntary.