- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

COVINGTON, La. (AP) - As a young pastor in Covington three decades ago, the Rev. Alfred Young Jr. was deeply troubled by his community’s drug addiction problem, so he told the congregation that they were going to pray for those hooked on crack cocaine.

“One of my members said to me, ‘No sense to us praying because everybody knows if you hooked on crack, can’t nobody help you, including God,’” Young recalled recently. “I took that as a personal challenge. Because I believe God can do anything.”

Now, some 30 years later, the drug addiction program Young started - called 4:13 - has helped countless people return to productive lives. The program isn’t Young’s only contribution to the community. A couple of years before he began it, the 60-year-old New Orleans native launched a highly successful summer camp program that provides positive activities for kids in one of Covington’s poorest neighborhoods.

Path: “Thirty-plus years ago, I started Faith Bible Church in Covington. My son became pastor of that church last year. Eleven years ago, I started Covenant Church, also in Covington. Now I’m just pastor of Covenant. Faith Bible is predominantly African American Democrats. Covenant is made up mostly of white Republicans. I was pastor of both churches for over a decade. I tell people, for at least 11 years I went from Rush Limbaugh to Jesse Jackson every week.”

Needs: “People’s needs are the same, just the presentation of those needs is different. Everybody wants safety, they want a great family, they want their kids to do well. They want a community that does well. So politically, people are not as divided as you might think. I don’t focus on political. I focus on solutions to the community’s problems.”

Action: “Today, we have tons of people and many groups that just talk about problems. As a matter of fact, we have a whole industry called talk radio and for the most part all they do is talk. They don’t have any solutions. People love to hear themselves talk and they think just talking will fix things. It doesn’t.”

How: “For over 30 years, we’ve been helping people who are hooked on drugs and alcohol. They stay with us, live with us in our facility for a year and we help them get their lives back together. We focus on responsibility and structure. Our people have to wake at 5:30 in the morning. They have to work. They have to submit to authority, especially authority they don’t like.”

Fairness: “A key factor when people are on drugs is they are tricked by the expectation that life should be fair. As part of our program we are very unfair, so that when you graduate you’ve gotten rid of that expectation. Because if you spend a year with me and when you graduate you still expect things to be fair, the first time things aren’t fair - and it’s coming - you’ll go back to drugs.”

Want: “Our facility is right in the heart of a drug zone. Any kind of drug you want, you can go one block down and get it. We don’t lock the doors at night. If they want it, it’s there. Go get it. People think that environment can be the main motive for drugs. No. You gotta fix the inner want to.”

Kids: “People say of African Americans that we have had over 30 years of opportunity since Dr. Martin Luther King died, and they’re right. But opportunity without exposure means nothing. There are tons of educational opportunities out there for young kids, teenagers, young adults that weren’t there before. But when your whole world consists of school and the 12-square-block area you live in, and when no one in your family has gone to college — or even seen one — all the opportunity in the world is no good. So what we do is expose them to the opportunities that the world has to offer. We take them on field trips, educational trips. We take them to college campuses and they see kids just like them. It gives them a vision and they say ‘I can do this.’”

Hope: “My hope for our community is that we will not do what others are doing and shift our responsibility for our kids, our public safety and the quality of life that we have. My hope is that we will accept the individual responsibility to improve things.”

Love: “What I love about my community is that it is small enough so that if we all get together and work together, we can solve all of our problems.”

Shout-out: From Hank Miltenberger, president of Covington-based Gilsbar LLC. “I have known Pastor Alfred Young for over 30 years. He is one of those rare people who actually makes a difference and serves without any self-interest. From drug- and alcohol- ravaged lives to endangered youth, he has put in place resources that change lives.”


Information from: The Times-Picayune, https://www.nola.com

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