LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) - The City of Lynchburg is starting the new year off with a call to action.
The City's Mayor, Police Chief, and church leaders met with state representatives Sunday on the steps of City Hall to discuss Lynchburg's problems, and how to solve them in the new year.
The focus was on improving three key areas in the community: education, safety, and poverty.
The city has about a 25% poverty rate, and in terms of safety, just saw another shooting early Sunday morning, but city leaders say they are optimistic the Hill City is on the rise.
Organizer James Coleman said the meeting is symbolic for the city.
"On the steps of City Hall, on the first day of the year, to lift up prayers, to encourage each other to work together is a strong statement about the will and heart of Lynchburg," said Coleman.
The will and heart to address some very real problems.
Mayor Joan Foster said first and foremost for her is the poverty rate, which she said can also have an effect on crime.
"I think it's very important that we lower those poverty numbers, because when people are living in poverty and become desperate, they do desperate things," said Foster.
Coleman said there are reasons to be positive, with very real progress being made.
"Workforce development, getting people ready to work and getting them involved and helping those who don't have, to have is what we're all coming together to make happen," said Coleman.
In terms of safety, Police Chief Raul Diaz said despite another early morning shooting Sunday at the Super 8 off Candlers Mountain Road, Lynchburg is getting safer.
"If you want to look around the region, and around the country, you're seeing, there's been some violent crime spikes taking place. We've been very, very fortunate, by the grace of God in Lynchburg, we haven't seen that," said Diaz.
Moving into the new year, Coleman said, while the meeting is symbolic, he hopes it produces real, positive change.
"Today, you had state and City leaders. Organizational leaders from the grass-roots up getting to know each other. The city's got to get better," said Coleman.
There are programs working to make some of those changes.
Police have a Community Action Team that works in the community to resolve issues, and there is a men to school program that provides positive mentors for young kids in the city's public schools.
Coleman said it's a good start he wants to see grow.
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