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Community members working to build stronger neighborhoods, stop shootings in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights

"When we come together as residents of Muskegon Heights, our unity has power and our voice is amplified."

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — Police in Muskegon Heights and Muskegon are working to solve two fatal shootings, and another that injured a man.

The most recent shooting killed a 32-year old Muskegon man who was shot Monday night while sitting inside a vehicle on Riordan Street in Muskegon Heights. On Sunday, 28-year old Todd Mitchell of Muskegon was fatally shot in a vehicle park near West Forest Avenue and Seaway Drive.

"People are afraid to even come out of their house," said Justin VanBlargan, of Twin Lake. VanBlargan delivers food in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights and listens to police scanners during his work hours. He's concerned about the recent increase in shots fired reports police in both cities are being called to.

VanBlargan says it's not a new problem, in fact it's the same reason he started the "Hoods Up Guns Down" car show five years ago.

The event will be held this year on June 20 at Duck Lake State Park.

"Come out and pop your hood up and show your car off," said VanBlargan. "Put the guns down and let's enjoy a day with no violence."

Marquis Childers Jr. is also working to reduce violence and shootings in his community in Muskegon Heights. His effort involves neighbors working together to solve big problems. 

"I think we can make some big changes," said Childers. "I'm a young black male, 27 and these are my peers, these are my friends, my childhood friends."

Childers and the Muskegon Heights Neighborhood Association Council (MHNAC) is launching a city-wide campaign to bring awareness to the growing Neighborhood Associations and Block Clubs in the city of Muskegon Heights.

Currently there are six neighborhood associations and three block clubs.

MHNAC is a non-profit organization formed by representatives from the various Associations and Block Clubs to increase resident influence in decision-making and policy that governs their lives.

The “We Empower Us” campaign is designed to raise awareness of the website created by the residents through MHNAC. It's a central site where information and contacts for the Neighborhood Associations can be found, opportunities to connect and create additional Associations and Block Clubs exist and vital information by the residents for the residents can be shared.

“When we come together as residents of Muskegon Heights, our unity has power and our voice is amplified,” said Childers, spokesperson for MHNAC. “Our lived experience gives us the most accurate insight into our own community strengths and areas of concern. Together, we can address policies that affect our education, economic opportunities, health, and safety and security within our homes and neighborhoods. We can build social connections and trust, and engage effectively with elected officials and institutions.”

The “We Empower Us” campaign will distribute yard signs, display banners in key area and leave informational door hangers at resident homes throughout the neighborhoods of Muskegon Heights. MHNAC is working together with Coalition for Community Development (CCD) in this endeavor.

Visit www.MuskegonHeightsStrong.com for more information.

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