New Direction Church Senior Pastor Kenneth Sullivan Jr. established New Direction SAVES (Saving a Valuable Endangered Species) in 2014. Originally created to keep the young Black men of the Indianapolis communities safe, the organization prioritizes connecting youth and young adults to educational, vocational, financial, legal, health and other opportunities to provide a path of deliverance from the societal ills that threaten their existence.
The inspiration behind the start-up was the murder of Trayvon Martin.
“After [the] George Zimmerman verdict, I was troubled not just by the verdict but the pattern of police brutality to unarmed Black civilians; in addition to that, seeing violence amongst Black males on the ground,” said Sullivan. “So, SAVES was created to address some of the systemic issues to remove barriers from African American people so they can have programming, skillsets and development, so it can help them become upwardly mobile in society.”
The acronym SAVES stems from being saved.
“Giving my life to Christ is the main thing that saved me,” said Sullivan. “At the end of the day, we want to not just save people from gun violence and those types of things but also to save their souls.”
Sullivan is passionate about assisting young Black males because they are the most at risk.
“I’m passionate about trying to help those make better decisions and find these off ramps to help them understand that you don’t have to be in the mix trying to show your masculinity in the wrong way,” said Sullivan. “You can be a young king that’s focused on trying to make some better choices that will ultimately put you and your family in a better position.”
Each year, the program implements initiatives with the intent of building safer communities one person at a time. The organization has partnered with Duke Energy, Children’s Bureau, CICF, Wheeler-Dowe Boys and Girls Club, Mind Trust and more.
Members of the SAVES Board of Directors work to advance the program’s mission of “Supporting at-promise individuals and families through programs and resources to build safe, stable communities” – at-promise is the term the organization uses in place of at-risk. Within the organization, there are several committees that each board member serves on to plan and implement programs throughout the year.
“The goal is to provide a safe space for those who are at-promise,” said Erica Young, SAVES board chair. “For young adults, we provide financial literacy programs, home buying programs and more. For youth, we offer CPR training, police de-escalation training and safe streets – a paid program throughout the summer to keep students off the streets and give them life skill workshops.”
“I hope that we become recognized as a program of support and resources to help the community,” Young said regarding the ultimate aim of the program.
Contact staff writer Braxton Babb at (317) 762-7854 or by email at BraxtonB@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @BLIEVESHEWRITES. For more news on the New Direction Church from the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.