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Tow truck driver gets statewide 'peace prize'

AV man founded programs to combat gang violence in Watts

Correction :

A story in Sunday’s Press Dispatch headlined “Tow truck driver gets statewide 'Peace Prize'” contained errors. The California Wellness Foundation was incorrectly called the California Wellness Association. "We Care Outreach Ministries" was also incorrectly called "Outreach Ministries." Julio Marcial should have been quoted as saying, “First and foremost, we recognize individuals who are not seeking the limelight and who are keeping young people out of harm’s way.”

APPLE VALLEY • In one of the most dangerous places in America, Michael Cummings has been doing his best to help minimize gang violence.

“Big” Mike, as he is known to his friends, owns his own local tow truck business by day. But he’s been spending his nights over the last few years creating many programs to help protect youth in Watts from gang activity and other violence.

For his efforts, the California Wellness Association has chosen to award the Apple Valley resident with the California Peace Prize, an award meant to showcase his actions in preventing crime.

“This is our opportunity to highlight an individual who is helping bring communities together,” said Julio Marcial, program director for the CWA. “First and foremost, we recognize individuals who are not seeking the limelight and who are putting themselves in harm’s way to stop gang activities.”

Cummings grew up in Watts and was involved with drugs and gangs as a kid. He was arrested for robbery and served 24 months in prison.

“I went to jail and while there I turned my life around and decided to be a positive force in the community,” Cummings said.

Cummings now lives in Apple Valley with his wife, Sauna, and the two have founded Outreach Ministries, a nonprofit organization to help strengthen the communities through several programs. As part of his Safe Haven program, Cummings has contacted several businesses in Watts to be part of a security network that will contact the police or medical services if they witness any gang related violence in their area.

Cummings works with the Children’s Institute and leads Project Fatherhood, which focuses on helping fathers recently released from prison learn to be better parents.

He also heads the Safe Passages Program, which helps escort children to and from David Starr Jordan High School in Watts, which is adjacent to Jordan Downs Housing Project. Safe Passages started when Cummings heard of a young man being shot and killed near the school.

“If someone had been there, that young man would probably still be alive today,” Cummings said.

The California Peace Prize that Cummings will receive on Dec. 12 includes a cash award of $25,000. Two other community leaders will also be honored that day for their work combating violence in Oakland.

“It’s our way of saying that he deserves recognition for making a difference in a place where other people say you can’t,” Marcial said. “This money is for him to do with as he sees fit, with no strings attached.”

When Cummings heard of his nomination, he was shocked.

“I was just totally just excited and blown away,” he said. “It brought tears to my eyes that someone would nominate me for that. You never know who’s watching you.”

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Reader's comments

Wonderful,good news for a change.

Steven Wagoner - Dec 04, 2012 04:52:36 AM Remove Comment

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