WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Many organizations in Wichita are working to bring people together, hoping to address issues that could lead youth down the wrong path. One Wichita man turned his struggle into Love Your Community. It’s a non-profit that hopes to inform Wichita’s youth about the dangers of gang violence and drug use but also hopes to bring communities together.
“I just wanted to be able to provide something that was going to bring people together,” said Angel Martinez, founder of Love Your Community.
Martinez knows firsthand what drug use can do and the impact it has on people’s lives.
“Whether it’s meth, whether it’s cocaine, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
When he coached football, he saw the disease’s impact on his players and their loved ones.
“Moms, dads addicted or even selling drugs, you have brothers and parents that are actively involved in gangs,” Martinez said.
He was addicted to multiple drugs for years.
“I was addicted to cocaine for seven years, alcoholic, and addicted to marijuana for like 10,” Martinez said.
He says it almost costs him his family.
“I came home after being gone for about a week out running around,” he said. “All the bags were packed, her and the kids, and just gave me an ultimatum,” said Martinez. “Had to show me some tough love and say, you know, ‘It’s either me and the kids or you and your drug habit.'”
He said it was at that point he made it his goal to beat the disease. It wasn’t easy. He had to overcome many obstacles, but with the support and love of his family, he was able to defeat them and change his life for the better.
“I was just fortunate in having a family that was able to come and literally take care of me while I was going through that sickness,” he said.
Martinez says opening up a dialogue with Wichita’s youth about gang violence and drug use can be life-changing.
“The only way that things change is if we get people, young people, to aspire to be more,” he said.
That was part of the reason he set up Love Your Community. Martinez sat down with police and city leaders and organized a day to bring neighbors together and begin the conversation about gang violence and drug use.
“To be able to talk to them, let them know that there are other ways, there are other things and opportunities available for them,” Martinez said.
The event has been held each year since 2017 until the pandemic hit. They are hoping to bring it back in August. They will be offering free haircuts, food, resources, but most importantly for some, a path to a second chance.
“Just pointing them a right direction to, ‘Hey, you can get help here. They can assist you here with this,’ you’re seeing completely different people walk out of these doors than when they walked in,” Martinez said.
If you want to contact Love Your Community, call Martinez at 316-519-3357.