School closings: Several districts closed Wednesday

Metro nonprofit hoping expansion will help cut crime, homicides in new year

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As we start a new year, local leaders say they want to take steps now to prevent a high number of homicides in 2019.

There are nearly 200 crosses on the front lawn at Leawood Baptist Church, honoring the homicide victims from the metro last year. Local leaders want to see that number cut that number in half.

"You hear 186 or 200. It's just a number. But when you see the names on the crosses, it becomes a lot more personalized," Pastor Adam Carter said.

Carter starts every January the same way -- by picking up those crosses at his church.

"We have a life loss, but there are multiple families affected by it, so it's a widespread issue we are facing," he said of the metro's murder cases.

It's an issue Carter said needs to change with the start of a new year.

Henry Wash is the president of the nonprofit High Aspirations, which centers around mentorship, connecting young men to positive role models.

"Many of our young men could have gone down the wrong track, but because of what we did with them, they didn't. They chose to go a different direction," he said.

This year, Wash's own aspiration will become reality. The nonprofit will be expanding to a new building in Longfellow Heights. The new building will open in February.

"It's going to make a tremendously big difference," he said.

Wash called the new building a hub, focused on young men with one big goal: "To really help a lot of young men in this city get their act together before they get into trouble."

This year, Wash said the program will be able to expand to help more than 210 young men. They also plan to work closer with other metro organizations, providing community involvement that Wash hopes will go far in 2019.

"We have a capacity of a lot of young men who can really help this community," he said.