NEW ORLEANS -- Several evenings a week, Reverend Jamaal Weathersby can be found walking the streets of Central City. He greets everyone he meets with a smile and a handshake.
"How you doing? God bless you," he said to a group of young men hanging out near Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and Magnolia St on a recent Wednesday.
If he seems at home, it's because he's been coming here for years.
"It just seems like, I'm at home and I feel like this is what was meant to be from the beginning," Weathersby said.
He's a life-long member at New Hope Baptist Church. He took over as pastor here three and a half years ago.
"My grandmother was one of the original 9 members of this church. I've been in this church my entire life," he explained. "when I was about 17 years old, I felt the calling on my life."
That calling leads him and dozens of other church members to hit the streets as part of the church's outreach program. This past Wednesday, the group of about 30 people set up a loud speaker on the neutral ground.
It's part church service, part social work.
"We never know what we're going to meet when we go into the community so we're just prepared to do whatever it takes," Weathersby said.
But why go out and meet with people one on one? On a typical Sunday, Weathersby can reach more than 350 people during a church service. He said it's not necessarily to find new church members, but rather the needs of the community are much more immediate than that.
People he meets are looking for help with the daily necessities of jobs and food. People like Hershel Smith.
"Welding, you know, different janatorial jobs. Maintenance, you know, broad opportunities," Smith said when asked what type of work he's looking for.
"Whether it's substance abuse, whether it's literacy, sometimes we encounter someone who needs a light bill paid, or something. It's all kinds of things," Weathersby said of the needs he encounters.
Violence is also such a part of everyday life. In the four square miles surrounding the church, 16 people have been shot and three of them died so far this year. When violence comes up, Smith just shrugs his shoulders.
"I think it's a concern for everyone, when there's violence, but what can I say?" he asked.
It's a chief concern for Claresha Stanback. She is a mother of three. Her youngest, Marcus is just two years old.
"You're scared for your kids to come outside. Every day you hear gun shots," she explained with frustration in her voice.
Weathersby has seen the impact up close. Kareem Dowell-- who's family was profiled by eyewitness news last month-- survived several different shootings. One put him in a wheelchair. New Hope's outreach was helping to change his life.
"He actually sat with the deacons from time to time," Weathersby remembers with a smile. "He wanted to wear a tie, all kinds of stuff."
The pull of the streets was too strong. Someone shot Dowell to death just before Christmas last year. Pastor Weathersby also led a vigil for Monique Smith and her two young sons. All three were killed in Gentilly earlier this month.
"It's sad. It can take the life out of you, if you allow it," he said.
But he's determined not to let it. With his bible and a sign in hand, he's letting people know he and his church members care.
Outreach coordinator Charles D. Smith believes they're making change, even if it is one person at a time.
"We are actually looking to affect the hearts of the people, and because we believe if the heart changes, then the mind changes," Smith said.
Whether the changes people need to make are spiritual or physical, Pastor Weathersby will keep preaching his message of change.
"We're going to keep on doing our part," he said. "We're going to keep on playing a role that God gave to us to help meet the needs of the community."
New Hope Baptist Church is also planning on building a community center in the neighborhood. It will have a literacy center and a gym to help people with their education and physical fitness.