Originally published October 28, 2011 at 4:02 PM | Page modified October 29, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Seahawks Coach Carroll, Ballmers team up for 'A Better Seattle'

For more than a decade, Metrocenter YMCA has been working with street outreach workers, mostly former gang members, who help young people get out of or avoid gangs. The program is expanding in size and geographic area, thanks to Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie. Good one.

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LIKE many urban areas around the country, Seattle and environs have a gang problem. Fortunately, some big thinkers and doers are working to ensure that vulnerable young people find ways to avoid gangs or get out safely if already involved.

For more than a decade, Metrocenter YMCA has been working with street outreach workers, mostly former gang members, who act as a bridge to young people who are often mistrustful of traditional programs and services.

The city of Seattle joined the program more recently with a $300,000 annual commitment, and its efforts now merge and expand with a particular interest of Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll. The coach did similar work in Los Angeles with a group called "A Better LA."

Carroll, former coach at the University of Southern California, was particularly incensed years ago by a spate of violence involving young kids in Los Angeles. He teamed up with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, to boost this anti-gang effort.

The Seahawks and the Ballmers are giving energy and money to a bigger, more geographically comprehensive effort that doubles the number of outreach workers and expands the cities that benefit from their work. In addition to Seattle, talks are under way with Renton, Auburn, Federal Way and Kent.

Experts say the best way to deal with gangs is to meet the members, establish street cred, diffuse tension and provide new avenues of help.

"We intervene on incidents of violence and connect those individual youths with core services to help them move away from the lifestyle to prevent further incidents of violence and retaliation," said Eleuthera Lisch, founder of the current program called "Alive & Free." Her group will lead the expanded effort as well.

The Seattle Police Department recently recognized this program for preventing trouble at the city's Torchlight Parade.

For a decade or more, Seattleites recall with some horror, violence broke out at Seattle's summer festival downtown. But for the past two years, there were no shootings or stabbings. Street outreach workers worked the crowd and prevented fights and other bad behavior.

Seattle and surrounding areas are lucky to have Carroll, the Ballmers, YMCA, the city of Seattle and others working proactively to prevent trouble. "A Better Seattle," the fundraising arm of the group, seeks additional donations to expand.

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