BRADENTON -- When anger drives a teen to put their finger on the trigger of a gun, they often feel there is no other option for venting their anger.
But 50 pastors and religious leaders meeting Monday at the Courtyard Marriott say they want to provide another option.
“Pops Club,” a group of men and women mentors willing to have their phone numbers printed on cards that would be handed out on the streets, is being formed, said The Rev. Cory Brinson of Spiritual House of Praise, which hosted the two-hour conference.
Mentors would have no names other than “Pops,” Brinson added.
A youth in trouble could call his “Pops” anytime, day or night, about a situation that seems to call for bullets, Brinson said.
“I really think it will work,” he said. “We have an epidemic on our hands. We have to take action.”
Pops Club comes 10 days after the worst mass shooting in Manatee County history, an attack at Club Elite in Palmetto that left two dead and 22 wounded.
Although an investigation into the shooting is continuing, there were no arrests Monday, said Lt. Scott Tyler of the Palmetto Police Department.
“If word got out that one child avoided gun violence by making that call, others would want the card,” Brinson said.
Cory Brinson’s father, Elmore Brinson, 64, who has been a Manatee County Area Transit bus driver for 29 years, volunteered as the first Pops during Monday’s conference.
The elder Brinson, who hopes more county men follow his lead, suggested the cards include the sentences: “Where you at? and “I’m on the way.” which will also be the first two things that Pops will be instructed to answer when his or her phone rings, Cory Brinson said.
“I think that is what a child would want to hear most from Pops,” Cory Brinson said.
“Where you at?” is a phrase that kids understand has more than one meaning, said Nadia “Tina” Harvey, a parent-student liaison at King Middle School.
“The kids who commit these crimes are angry,” Harvey added. “They do not know any other way to get rid of that anger than to hurt someone. They have not been trained that you can talk to someone and resolve a conflict peacefully.”
“I think the idea is great,” said Monique Hines, whose husband, Yantee Hines, is a youth pastor. “This will offer kids something positive they can call upon.”
Besides the Pops Club, the pastors decided that more prayer is needed everyday for children, families and law enforcement, Brinson said.
Anyone interested in being a Pops for at-risk youth is asked to call Elmore Brinson at (941) 722-9297.