A Fresno pastor's work helping gang members start over is the subject of a feature film being produced here in Fresno.
"Finding Hope Now," a movie based on the Rev. Roger Minassian's 2003 book "Gangs to Jobs," recounts how he started the Hope Now for Youth program in 1993 to help gang members start over.
Since Minassian launched the program, Hope Now has helped more than 1,600 gang members, getting them off the streets and into jobs that enable them to lead productive lives.
Minassian attributes his program's effectiveness to an emphasis on building relationships over time.
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Program counselors help the youths get drivers licenses, Social Security cards and, eventually, jobs -- giving many "some sense of control over their lives for the first time." "Kids here are no different than those in Chicago or Miami.
The film will show how this program can work in other cities," Minassian said.
Volunteers and community donations are helping the low-budget Christian film, shooting entirely in Fresno, come together.
Michael Badalucco, best known for his role as Jimmy Berluti on "The Practice," plays Minassian.
"This is a story that has to be told," Badalucco says. "Not just for its entertainment value. But it is important to get this message out. It is the power of love that makes these kids think they can do something with their lives. It is an honor for me to be part of this."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Swine flu's lessons
It doesn't take a severe pandemic -- or even much of a disease outbreak -- to overwhelm America's public health system.
That's an important lesson highlighted in a pair of new reports about this year's swine flu outbreak. New cases are still being reported, but in the northern hemisphere at least, flu season is over.
Still, the flu scare and the response to it document vulnerabilities in the U.S. public health system.
Experts say the world is overdue for another major influenza pandemic. Swine flu provided a reality check on the effectiveness of years of planning in our current system.
The good news is that it performed better than it would have just a few years ago. There were national and state stockpiles of antiviral drugs, for example, and better systems for collecting case information and communicating with the public.
The bad news is that, even with stepped-up planning, preventable problems still surfaced.
We can choose to invest in public health, reform the medical system and cover the uninsured. Or we can wait and hope it's not already too late.