Feed and read events helping residents around Murphy Park battle the roots of crime

ST. LOUIS - Some say the effort to beautify Murphy Park in north St. Louis has gone much deeper than what’s visible on the surface.  A collaboration of community organizations is getting to the root of crime problems.  Several community groups head to the park each Saturday for what’s known as a feed and read event, thanks to a federal grant secured by the City of St. Louis.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Larry Dampier helps give out sandwiches and milk to neighborhood kids each Saturday.  The Community Engagement Liaison Officer said some parts of St. Louis are known as food deserts.

“We want all the kids in the neighborhood to come out each Saturday,” said Dampier.  “I enjoy seeing them fed and having a good day.”

The group Village of Moms sets up a table of children books at the park each Saturday.

“We want the children to be able to grab a meal, grab a book and take that book home with them and share the love of reading with their family, with their siblings and maybe even the neighborhood children,” said Village of Moms spokeswoman Mia Daugherty.

Another major part of the beautification involves COCA and St. Louis artist Cbabi Bayoc.  They are at Murphy Park each Saturday giving art guidance for a mural being creating by people living in the neighborhood.

“More and more children are on the playground playing and families are here talking to us about how much they love having children here in the park,” said COCA Director of Arts Education Shawna Flanigan.

She said the mural will be unveiled next month and believes the project has already made a difference.

“Children immediately run to the park and play,” she said.

Mental wellness resources are also available each week through the non-profit K.H.A.O.S.

Felice McClendon is with Urban Strategies, a not-for-profit with the mission of making sure all children and families are stable and thriving.   The agency worked with the City of St. Louis to secure that grant making the Saturday feed and read events possible.  McClendon said the weekly events are a powerful display of how a community can come together.

“It breaks down the walls when everyone is working side by side,” said McClendon.  “This is really how you reduce crime and increase safety in neighborhoods.”