Last summer, I was given the opportunity to Join the Community Engagement Response Team (CERT). It was such an honor, and I was so excited because I had heard about so many amazing deeds that this nonprofit organization was doing within our community.
CERT was founded by Andre Crockett and William (Bud) Whitehorn after a tragedy which occurred in downtown Rochester on May 16, 2021 that resulted in the death of one of our young community members, Todd Banks Jr.
The team started patrolling downtown to respond to growing safety needs and ensured that our community members arrived home safely after enjoying the local nightlife. They worked to de-escalate and prevent potential problems by offering free food, water and haircuts and the opportunity to shoot hoops or just have a conversation or vent.
My first night on patrol I was able to meet one of the key players of CERT, Carol Ann Marie. What an amazing soul with a huge smile and an even bigger heart of gold she has. What many people don’t realize is that Carol Ann is one of the driving forces behind CERT and wears many hats within the team. She is responsible for CERT’s social media and its followers, and she helps to organize fundraising events and other community activities.
However, don’t let her beautiful smile fool you. Carol Ann has gone through her share of trials and tribulations: She has known trauma and depression, and she knows what desperation feels like. She was displaced after going through divorce, raising six children on her own all the while. Instead of being a victim, she dug in and started a new life.
Carol Ann says, “I’m used to being more in the background and not being too loud when it comes to other people’s issues. I know that they don’t need me to speak for them, and I can be supportive without taking away another person’s voice.” She has a very maternal love toward the group, and she will always strive to make it better and stronger.
When asked what her message would be to other people who aren’t sure what they could offer to the team, she says, “You matter. Everyone has a different role, and no one can be you or bring what you can.”
I have found this statement personally to be true. Each of us has found our own strength within the group, and we all truly matter. Each of us has a voice.
What does the future hold for Carol Ann? She continues to support CERT and all the group’s endeavors. Along with starting a clothing line, she supports Yammy Bear and Family, as well as her partner, Charles Jackson. She also helps to create media webpages for up-and-coming businesses.
I am so blessed to know this fantastic woman who acts selflessly and humbly, and I am grateful for the friendship we have forged.
To find out about CERT and what the organization does, check out their Facebook page or The Barber Shop & Social Services’ page. Or give The Barbershop a call at (507) 269-0525.