By Dorany Pineda
In the late 1980s, Los Angeles’ midtown and Arlington Heights communities saw a spike in gang-related shootings and homicides. For more than 20 years, the violence persisted.
After the Rodney King Riots of 1992, Bo Taylor, a resident of Arlington Heights, decided to do something to change the turbulent conditions of his community. His call for peace and unity evolved into an organization that inspired the creation of another.
A “Second Chance at Loving Life,” or 2nd Call, was that creation, which was made possible by founders Skipp Townsend and Kenny Smith. The nonprofit’s intent was to mend the city’s bloodied and bruised communities.
“We started by trying to reduce violence through gang intervention,” said Townsend, the organization’s executive director. “We soon discovered there was a lot of unresolved trauma in families, which led to substance abuse among community members.
“Many people were showing up drunk or drugged up to our classes,” he said. So he decided to shift the organization’s focus from merely finding them jobs to helping them obtain careers.
Since its founding, the nonprofit has assisted in the personal development of high-risk people, proven offenders, former felons, parolees and others within cycles of violence through counseling, support and intervention. Most of its work centers on helping people re-enter society after being released from prison.
And it does so through its numerous free classes on parenting, anger management, life skills, domestic violence and job readiness.
Every Saturday, for example, the Lead of Faith Community Church in Inglewood hosts a “Victim Support Class” for female victims of domestic violence. But the organization works also with perpetrators of domestic violence. By offering classes to both, Townsend “wants them to become better people and have them help others.”
And Thursday evenings in University Park, the organization offers classes on employment life skills for people ready to go into the workforce.
Those are only two of numerous weekly classes available to community members. What started as one class with a few dozen people has expanded into 14 classes serving more than 400 individuals a week, including inmates in state and federal prisons.
And unless the classes are court mandated, they are on a continuum. Townsend said this allows the courses to function as “a lifestyle change and not a program” … ultimately helping people ready to re-enter society “get to a place where they want to make changes.”
Richard is one such person. After 23 years in prison, 2nd Call helped him transition into society again. He has since become a union electrician through hard work, dedication and the support and resources offered to him by the nonprofit.
Townsend believes that stories like Richard’s are not only changing the dynamics of communities, but also are positively influencing people that still are in prison.
“As we change the mindset, behavior and attitude of the people we work with, we also change the environment we put them in,” Townsend said. “We can change the perception that people have of individuals that are normally disregarded by society.”
Executive Director: Skipp Townsend
Years in operation: 12
Number of employees: 5; 12 volunteers
Annual budget: $240,000
Location: 1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, 90302