AKRON (WJW) — The city of Akron announced it awarded more than $1.6 million dollars in funding to area nonprofits and faith-based organizations working to combat violence in the city.

Four grant recipients were announced Tuesday, under the Violence Intervention and Prevention program.

The list included an $80,000 dollar grant to South Akron Youth Mentorship (SAYM), dedicated to serving children from elementary through high school through work readiness, education, mentorship and faith-based programs.

“Honestly, it’s a huge blessing,” said Ron Kent, Interim Director of SAYM. “The past few years we’ve had significant hurdles, ups and downs, social unrest, all the COVID stuff, we’ve lost a decent amount of funding.”

The grants were announced after recent unrest in Akron including the police involved shooting of Jayland Walker and the unrelated shooting of a 4-year-old girl.

“Some of our kids feel the need to process some of that stuff and at the same time unfortunately it’s nothing new to the urban context,” said Kent. “In some ways we can grow numb to the violence around us because stuff happens so often.”

Kent said he wants children in the program to be able to make good decisions in order to overcome bad situations.

“I’ve been here since I was in sixth grade and I love it,” said Jacob Cox, 17.

Cox is one of 80 mentees in the program, with access to guidance from 40 mentors. He said advice from Kent and area professionals serving as mentors helped him make better decisions.

“You’re growing up with someone that’s your friend and then like, if you don’t want to do bad things you just have to push away from that and let them go,” Cox said. “Have them do their own thing because you don’t want to fall into that.”

Lynn McKinnon has several of her children in the program including Cox. She said the program helped her son get a job and save money.

“It has been really life changing for Jacob and my entire family,” she said. “They literally come knock on the door, sit on your couch … it lets the family know that we’re here for each other. They want to better the community and make it a safer place for all.”

Akron received $145 million in federal funding as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Funding the city is using in six areas to create a safer and healthier city. The city of Akron will reopen grant applications in October for its second round of funding.

Kent said the organization is currently working to build a base of small monthly donations to help solidify the program for years to come.

“If you’re helping the children grow into the people they’re supposed to be, you’re building the community at the same time,” Kent said.