Terrance Roberts is one of Denver's great comeback stories. A one-time shot-caller in the Park Hill Bloods, Roberts turned his life around and founded the Prodigal Son Initiative, an anti-gang youth program in northeast Park Hill. When a 2008 gang-related arson attack destroyed the Holly Square Shopping Center, Roberts helped spearhead a rebirth that includes a busy basketball court and a future Boys & Girls Club. But Roberts' organization might not be around to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
That's because Prodigal Son could soon shut down because of a funding shortage.
"It's looking like we might have to shut our doors," Roberts says. "With all the work we've done, we are still struggling to get support. If we don't get support pretty fast, we are going to have shut down in March."
The problem? Roberts says he spent so much time and effort helping to build the basketball courts on the site of the Holly Square that he's had little time left to fundraise for his nonprofit organization. "We put everything we had into courts, and we need a bail-out," he says bluntly. "We had some supporters, but they have not come through." He adds, "I can't even pay my utility bills at my house."
This coming from a guy who was named an African-American History Maker by NBC, a past winner of the DU International Peacekeepers Award and the MLK Marade Community Recognition Award, a guy who hangs with neighborhood hero Chauncey Billups and is one of the few folks around working to bring support and attention to one of the most neglected communities in the city. But if something doesn't change fast, Roberts could soon be looking for a new job.
What's all the more painful is that the streets around the Prodigal Son Initiative, located across the street from the former Holly Square, are finally making a comeback. The Boys & Girls Club, formally named the Nancy P. Anschutz Center, broke ground in October, and evenings at the Holly hoops now regularly involve youth and police officers squaring off -- on the b-ball court.
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Still, even if his nonprofit shuts down, Roberts won't give up on his mission to curb gang violence. He plans to keep building the Colorado Camo Movement, a grassroots undertaking to inspire youth to wear camouflage colors instead of the reds of the Bloods and the blues of the Crips. Already, he says, local musicians like Innerstate Ike and DJ Ktone are sporting the anti-gang colors, and word about the program is spreading to other states. So even if the Prodigal Son Initiative bows out, the prodigal son behind it will keep up the fight.
Read the message Roberts posted on his Facebook page yesterday:
Looks like after eight years of programming for Northeast Denver underprivileged youth who nobody cared at all about we will be closing our doors due to the lack of support. Now that we have brought in the Boys and Girls Club I at least know our youth will not have to worry where to be after school as many of us had to growing up in that community. We are fresh off of helping raise over $7,000,000.00 for a new Youth Center in Park Hill and completing the Holly Square Peace Courts! It's crazy that if you are from my community in this city even when you are successful and doing the right things the support is lacking! But it always has been and we are a resilient people aren't we? We raised over 400 kids over some very hard and trying times and many of them are very successful to this day. We stepped into all out gang wars and stopped them cold. We resurrected an entire community where over 9,000 people live, 2,500 of them poor children! I am proud of my track record and that of my team! The Lord has used me to do unheard of before advocacy in this nation for my people and community! Thanks to everyone who has ever supported us! COLORADO CAMO MOVEMENT still in full effect!
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Holly Square Shopping Center: From arson to basketball courts, playgrounds."