CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The First Followers group, city officials and community members gathered for the inaugural Hedge Pop Park celebration in Champaign’s Garden Hills neighborhood.

Executive Director Marlon Mitchell said it’s part of an effort to combat violence.

“The Garden Hills area always has this bad narrative about high crime and different things like that,” Mitchell said. “We just want to bring a different narrative to that story and show that people can come, get together and celebrate good times.’

The event featured music, food, games and booths from the local city groups.

The group helps formerly imprisoned men and women by giving them the necessary resources to adjust to society. Member Mykeshia Lipscomb has taken full advantage of the organization’s generosity.

“They have resources for housing, education, jobs,” Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb spent five and a half years in prison and was released in 2017. She joined First Followers in 2022 and knows exactly how tough it is to adjust back into society.

“She hopes more people tap into the services the group provides and she wants to see more events like this that cater to young people.”

“It’s not a lot for kids to do around here. So, for them to come out and be able to have fun, enjoy the park and the weather, that’s a good thing,” Lipscomb said.

Michell said if you missed today’s event, there are five more. Two events in June, two in July and one more in August.