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HEIYP Hosts Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for Youth at Onondaga County Justice Center

By Daphne Ramsey



PHOTO: Provided by HEIYP, via the Post Standard.

Helping to Empower Incarcerated Young People (HEIYP) hosted its annual Thanksgiving dinner for youth at the Onondaga County Justice Center Wednesday, Nov. 23.

According to HEIYP officials, the group holds the event each year to provide young men ages 16 to 17 with a Thanksgiving meal, when they are unable to be with their families during the holiday.

“The reason we hosted the Thanksgiving dinner is because, when you think of Thanksgiving, it’s a time of family coming together,” HEIYP founder Mike Atkins stated. “And, to be in jail, and not think of family, is a very stressful time.”

The group served about 20 young men a full-course meal Wednesday, along with dessert, as well as entertainment.

Members of the Bethany Baptist Church also prayed, and sang songs during the event, followed by words of encouragement for the youth.

“Don’t hinder your futures. Choose a different path,” the group stated.


PHOTO: Provided by HEIYP, via the Post Standard.

Community advocates General Davis, of the Real Fathers, Real Men Program; Evelyn Allen; Minister Ronald Young; 13-year-old student pastor Nore Neal; Sandra King; Sonia Hudgins; and Minster Howard Jackson, of Bethany Baptist Church, also spoke to the youth during the event.

According to Atkins, each year the group starts with its Thanksgiving dinner, then holds a Christmas event in December, followed by a lecture series in January, in which guest speakers offer words of encouragement to the youth at the Justice Center.

“This is the start of our programming,” Atkins stated. “And, this was a way to introduce them to us, to see that we care for them, and that people love them. And now, we’ll start our lecture series, in which we will bring in people from the community, that have had trials and tribulations just like they have, but; they’ve changed their lifestyles, and they have done good. And, the majority of these people that will be coming in are just a little bit older than them, so this is a great way to get the kids to calm down, and respect those that will be coming in to speak to them, and to share with them their life experiences.”

According to Atkins, individuals who may be interested in volunteering for one group’s upcoming events, or in speaking during the group’s lecture series may contact HEYIP at

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