INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — At a graduation ceremony at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church last week, there were no caps and gowns. The graduates were given a hammer instead of a diploma.
But like all graduations, it marked the end of a journey.
“I’ve learned a whole lot, it’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Aaron Wright told the crowd of more than a dozen sitting in the pews of the church.
This part of Aaron Wright’s journey is ending right where it started.
“We do a lot of funerals of our young people that have been killed,” Rev. Ronald Covington said.
“It was a family member, and it was gun violence,” Wright said.
“I asked the young people, ‘How many of you would be willing to trade your gun in for a hammer?'” Covington said.
“It’s actually something that I wanted to do all along and I just seen the opportunity and took it,” Wright said.
The opportunity took him to a vacant home on the city’s west side. He encouraged his best friend, Robert Bland, to join, too.
“They giving us something to give to the community, so what’s better than that?” Bland said.
They are the pastors from all over Indianapolis who are part of the BUILD, or Believers United in Local Development, program.
“We’re training young people in the fields of carpentry, electricity, plumbing, cement finishing,” Covington said, “It’s an opportunity that we can take care of several issues plaguing our community: we have drug issues, we have houses that are used for drug havens, we have young people who really don’t see a future, have an opportunity.”
The goal of the program is to rebuild lives while rebuilding homes, and then give them to people in need of a little help.
“I’ve been in need before and I’ve been down and out so just to help someone, it touches you in a certain kind of way,” Wright said.
The home Wright and Bland have been working on for nearly a month will be going to Amber and Patrick Patterson and their four daughters.
“We were shocked, completely shocked,” Amber said, “I was speechless, which is not normal.”
It’s been a long year for the Pattersons. There were health issues and financial issues. And in February, Patrick was told his job for Carrier was leaving. He has since learned it is staying.
“I caught myself a couple of times just looking around just looking like I still couldn’t believe what was going on, and it was going on for me and my family,” Patrick said.
“I’m just grateful to be a little bit a part of it,” Amber said.
A part of a journey that is changing lives, one house at time.
“Me and my buddy, we did this, ya know what I’m saying so ya, I’m real proud,” Wright said.