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Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - With each stroke of a paintbrush, volunteers worked to make St. Roch Park a better place for kids Saturday.

'That's the kind of anchor you need to make a community safe, and we're really just thankful so many people have come out today,' said Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Volunteers planted trees, painted benches and helped clean up the neighborhood around St. Roch Park. It's part of Landrieu's murder reduction strategy, NOLA for Life.

Saturday, officials hoped to cut crime by bringing neighbors together and give kids a positive place to play.

'We know for a fact, the most effective crime prevention tool in America is your front porch and your playgrounds,' said New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

St. Roch Park was once infiltrated to the violent Ride or Die gang, Serpas said. But a recent indictment could help keep many of its members off the streets.

A recent $1.8 million renovation at the park is also helping the community reclaim this area.

'This neighborhood in particular, St. Roch, has had a lot of struggles and a lot of challenges, but this community has really rallied around each other and especially this playground,' said Kristin Palmer, New Orleans Council District C. 'It's really a place of hope.'

But the revitalization efforts don't stop at St. Roch. Volunteers worked across the city.

In the 9th Ward, hundreds of volunteers are participating in a super service day, for Council District E, where they're focusing on overgrown lots.

'It's a quality of life issue. It would be great if the city had the capacity to handle all these problems, but they don't, and we are among people who say we will handle our own problems if necessary,' said James Gray, New Orleans Council District E.

'I think once the people see that people [are] really trying to do some things and help out the community, I think they're going to be touched by some things and some people are going to come and help out a little more,' said Leonard Price, minister at the Next Generation of Original Morning Star Full Gospel Baptist Church in the Desire neighborhood.

More than 1,000 volunteers from the five campuses of Celebration Church spread out across the 9th Ward for service projects.

One of those projects included building shelves inside a community library on Douglas Street in the Holy Cross neighborhood. The library, which is run by the homeowner, makes up half of a double. For the last three years, children have come to check out books and even receive free books.

Thanks to volunteers with the church, children will also have a stage to perform plays. And they now have many more donated books from which to choose.

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