Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS - The loss of a loved one can be heart wrenching. And in a city with a notoriously high murder rate, dozens of grieving mothers came together Friday night to talk about solutions.

The emotional memorial dinner took place inside New Hope Baptist Church in Central City.

Before dinner was served, a number of speakers, from the group 'Ceasefire' to Sheriff Marlin Gusman, stood before a room filled with grieving families to share their ideas for solutions, and their sympathy for victims.

Then, in an annual tradition at the dinner, those in attendance clasped hands in a 'circle of hope,' and spoke out on their ideas for a brighter future.

'I see hope and I know that prayer does change things,' said Melba Ricard, who is grieving the loss of her son, Chevez Ricard, 28, last month.

Ricard's son was found dead last month inside a CBD hotel room. His death, she says, remains unclassified. But Ricard's convinced there's more to the story.

'I'm just trying to get closure and justice for my son,' said Ricard. 'It's a challenge for me to just wake up in the morning with just no answers.'

And that's where 'Mothers Hurting Because of Violence' comes in. Desiree Watson Jones founded the support group after her own son was murdered seven years ago.

'We have to come together, we have to let people know that what we're dealing with out here is real,' said Jones.

Friday night, families came together to support each other, to talk with officials and non profit groups, and to try to come up with solutions to the city's high murder rate.

There were tears, and hugs as the memories of lost loved ones came rushing back.

One of the grieving mothers in attendance was that of Shawanna Pierce, 33, who was killed when a stray bullet hit her car during a quintuple shooting at a birthday party in Central City earlier this year.

Pierce leaves behind three children, who were in attendance Friday night.

The family was too emotional to speak on camera, but Jones said she hopes her group helps all mothers dealing with their child's murder.

'The pain that it takes that a mother go through with losing a child, I don't want to see any mother go through it,' said Jones.

The New Orleans Police Department said 173 people have been murdered in New Orleans as of December 7 . That's down about five percent from this time last year, when there were 183 murders. The total number of murders last year was 199.

But for grieving families at this annual memorial dinner, one death is too many.

'I'm going through a lot,' said Ricard. 'I'm trying to hold up. It was the will of God that got me here.'

New Orleans Police declined to comment on this year's murder rate.

Meanwhile, Mothers Hurting Because of Violence said it will continue reaching out to families suffering a loss.
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