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CERT banquet celebrates one year of making Rochester safer and better

Their goal is to break down racial divides and build relationships between the BIPOC community and local law enforcement.

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Courtesy of CERT
We are part of The Trust Project.

Can good things happen after midnight? Rev. Andre Crockett and Bud Whitehorn believe they can.

As founders of the Community Engagement Response Team (CERT) their goal is to break down racial divides and build relationships between the BIPOC community and local law enforcement.

The co-founders brought together community leaders and change agents of Rochester for the first annual Community Engagement Banquet on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, at the Rochester Event Center to witness and celebrate the positive impact this organization has made in the past year.

A little over a year ago, many in the Rochester community were shocked by the deadly shooting in Downtown Rochester. On June 6, 2021, 28-year-old Todd Banks Jr., known as JR, was shot and killed.

CERT formed after the shooting in partnership with the Rochester Police Department (RPD). The team comprises community leaders and volunteers who work proactively to keep Rochester's downtown and neighborhoods safe.

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At the banquet, Laneice Bryant, JR's mother, shared a heartfelt message of the impact she has seen in the community and how things might have been different for her son with C.E.R.T. around a year ago. And as importantly, she emphasized how the organization has become family to her by supporting her through a tragic time.

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Courtesy of CERT

CERT's efforts spread beyond the wee hours of the evening and into the day, with programs intended to foster trust and create partnerships. CERT opened its first Community Center, and created a junior CERT after-school program focused on leadership development and community engagement.

Attorney General Keith Ellison commended the efforts. Captain Jeff Stilwell and Chief Jim Franklin of Rochester Police Department attended the banquet to share the changes they have witnessed. Also notably, community members like Ka Juan Parker and Dondi Mcintosh gave powerful testimonies of how CERT changed their lives for the better.

To continue making a difference, the banquet consisted of a silent auction that raised $8,000 to help further and expand CERT's mission in the coming year. Crockett said, “It’ll be used for movie nights, turkey giveaways, free haircuts, and community engagement activities.”

Additionally, CERT leaders recognized members in the community who have supported and shared the vision of the organization through an awards ceremony (list is at the end).

Crockett knows that building a better community, a lifelong mission of his, takes a great deal of effort. He says communities are better when we all "knock down walls and build bridges of understanding."

The night was full of celebration and continued hope for a better and safer Rochester.

Award Winners – 

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Trailblazer Award: For blazing the path toward equity and justice.

Mrs. Jackie Johnson, George Thompson, Mrs. Sandra Means, Mr. Lou Means, Mrs. Jackie Trotter, Mr. Virgil Trotter.

Ambassador Award: For championing the cause.

Christy Blade and Brooke Carlson.

Partnership Award: For providing an opportunity for collaboration.

City of Rochester and Olmsted County.

Community Impact Award: For the boots on the ground that are doing the work.

CERT Team Members.

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Courtesy of CERT

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