Young woman who lost brothers to gun violence plans to open youth center in Gary

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- After losing two brothers to gun violence, Aaliyah Stewart has been making a difference in her hometown of Gary.

"It was very hard losing both of my brothers. I really had to trust God and know that God has a plan for me," said Stewart, who founded the anti-violence nonprofit, ASW Foundation Inc., when she was a freshman in high school.

Stewart recently purchased a building in the 3800 block of Broadway that will be the future home of the I AM THEM Hope Youth Center.

"To be 20 years old to own a building to house something positive for young people, a youth center on this side of town, on the east side of Gary, it's amazing for me," she said.

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She closed on the property on May 17, which would have been Stewart's brother, Anthony White Jr.'s 30th birthday.

Stewart and a group of teens began cleaning out the building Monday to get it ready for renovations in July.

"It makes you feel good that you're helping," said Cayla Evans, a volunteer.

The teens said the youth center is going to have a positive impact in the community.

"It will allow kids to have something else to do besides stay outside and be in trouble," said Donyaeh Hopkins, a volunteer.

While removing items from the building, one of the teens discovered a painting depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. Stewart said it was confirmation that she's on the right path.

"Out of all the times I've been in the building when purchasing it, I never saw the picture," Stewart said. "It gave me more hope that this is the right facility for us."

Stewart said she she'll need to raise about $150,000 to transform the property into a youth center, which she hopes to open by the end of the year.
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