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Pastor, activist season the GANG scene with SALT
by Jessica Garcia
Aug 22, 2009 | 7378 views | 8 8 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - All visitors were greeted with hugs by Pastor Leslie Williams, director of Saving A Life Together (S.A.L.T.). Williams received a grateful hug in return from Estella Nerey, mother of long-time youth activist Roberto Nerey.
Tribune/Debra Reid - All visitors were greeted with hugs by Pastor Leslie Williams, director of Saving A Life Together (S.A.L.T.). Williams received a grateful hug in return from Estella Nerey, mother of long-time youth activist Roberto Nerey.
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Youth activist Roberto Nerey, left, looks on as Pastor Leslie Williams describes his Saving A Life Together (S.A.L.T.) youth program. Nerey and Williams plan to coordinate their youth outreach efforts.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Youth activist Roberto Nerey, left, looks on as Pastor Leslie Williams describes his Saving A Life Together (S.A.L.T.) youth program. Nerey and Williams plan to coordinate their youth outreach efforts.
A week ago today, Pastor Les Williams of Christ Bethlehem and local anti-gang activist Roberto Nerey didn’t know each other.

On Monday, they met in a lunch meeting and quickly realized their interests in helping the teens of the community were aligned, though Nerey’s program had not yet fully materialized. He had no proper facility in which to provide counseling or safe activities for his teens — and no funding to back his program. Williams had the building and the plan to help him solidify his foundation, though he didn’t have the kind of insight into gang life Nerey gained through his own involvement and time served in prison.

By Tuesday, they were not just fellow advocates fighting for the same cause. They were partners in a collaboration that joins the best of both programs to do more for reaching youth than they ever could on their own.

“I am so excited,” Williams said. “We have a multiplicity of people who want to assist in our effort. People want to volunteer. I’m overwhelmed.”

Williams, pastor of Christ Bethlehem, and about 50 people celebrated the new location of his church with an open house on Saturday. During his introduction of the facility, Williams announced the partnership of his Saving a Life Together (SALT) curriculum with Nerey’s Guiding a New Generation (GANG) program.

“Now that we have the facility, I know we can attract the kids,” Nerey said. “That’s been the hardest part.”

The move gives Nerey access to Christ Bethlehem’s space for a planned boxing ring and room to continue a lowrider bike club. Williams benefits by Nerey’s networking skills and ability to bring in more kids off the streets to go through SALT. Together, they have an opportunity to teach teens who may be gang members or are involved in other negative activities to become responsible young people.

“What we want to teach the kids is how important it is for them to give back what’s been poured into them,” Williams said.

The community has gone years without a boxing ring for kids. Now, in a 1,700-square-foot portion of a suite Christ Bethlehem is occupying on Greg Street, Nerey will be able to bring in professional boxing instructors to coach the youth. The ring will have a hanging punching bag and speed bag, but other equipment, such as gloves, will be needed. Williams said the goal is to eventually set up two rings.

“It’s a great marriage,” Williams said. “We will now have brochures that say, ‘GANG and SALT.’ ”

Williams’ SALT program will discuss major teen issues in modules for 48 weeks of the year. It will be an intensive and age-appropriate look at gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, abortion, suicide and more. Teens will have to pass a test at the end or else they start over again, and they must be committed to the program in order to access the boxing ring and any other recreational activities and field trips that SALT staff will organize.

“We want to pull the kids out of the neighborhood and to pull the neighborhood out of the kids,” he said.

Wiliams felt called to action when his 10-year-old nephew was killed in a gang shooting crossfire in Chicago. Williams was never a gang member himself, but Nerey brings to the table what Williams lacks in terms of working with gang members.

“If a kid was taken away because of a bullet intended for someone else, ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem,” Williams said to the crowd Saturday. “In our rural areas, gang infestation has taken over. Whether we’re black, white, blue or green, we have an issue.”

Nerey, a former member of a Reno gang who served two years in prison for his part in a drive-by shooting, said he wants to make a difference where he feels no one else can.

“We don’t have (police) badges, we have hearts,” he said. “Now I’m more than just a soldier. I’m a warrior.”

Williams and Nerey have plans to do more, as well. They are seeking at least three vans, even if they’re not running, to be fixed up and used for transporting teens on outings and other needs. Vans donated by the community will be tax deductible. They want more volunteers to give their time to work with the youth. They hope the boxing gear will be donated, as well.

“There’s room enough now that we have the attention of Pastor Les,” Nerey said.

To contact Williams or Nerey, call 355-6775 or send an e-mail to or info@savingalifetogether.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Keeping it real!
January 26, 2010
By Tuesday, they were not just fellow advocates fighting for the same cause. They were partners in a collaboration that joins the best of both programs to do more for reaching youth than they ever could on their own.

I fist came to Pastor Leslie Williams because Roberto who I call uncle, cause that is how he is viewed in the hood, introduced me and many others to his church and program. As an active gang member myself, I know how tough it is out there, especially when you have no one to turn to. Not just anyone can make it in the streets, it's a lonely, predatory world which is why I love and respect the work my Unk does. I've never met anyone, here or there who literally cares about us, the people in life that is consider trash by society. Unk always had the best for us in mind, he wanted to badly to have a place to house us, so he can be able and work directly with us. But just when I thought it was good, he walked out of Pastor Leslies life. It's unfortunate that Pastor Les lost such an awesome member of the church, someone who did every thing and anything for the Pastor. And for the record, all Unk wanted was the facility the Pastor promised him to start his outreach boxing program. A program the Pastor never helped with even though he stated from the very beginning he would. I'm not faulting anyone, I just know that ever since Unk (Roberto Nerey) walked out of Christ Bethlehem Church, nothing is longer the same. It's just amazing the impact one person can have on a program let alone a community.

Jason Grant
January 20, 2010
I just saw an interview regarding Roberto and he is doing well with Guiding A New Generation (G.A.N.G.) Apparently they thought they had a gym where structured athletic programs can be ran, but that is not the case. I spoke with Roberto and he tells me there is no partnership with this new gym yet but rather than being housed with anyone they would prefer a facility they can call their own. But you are right, he is not in any way shape or form connected to Bethlehem church. Apparently, the church's pastor never did anything for the program let alone the kids.

I hope that someday G.A.N.G will have a physical address as well as a staff to run the wonderful they have. I'm really looking forward to seeing the differance this intervention, prevention program makes. I hope this community continues to back the organization, I personally don't have money to give, but I do have time. Where do I sign up? :0)

Mr. Grant
Manuel Arce
January 12, 2010
What's going on? I attempted to make a call so that I could speak with Mr. Nerey regarding the boxing program but I was told he was no longer in partnership with the church. I have equipment and have major contacts in this arena. Can someone please put me in contact with him. Thank you.

Carrie Rodriguez
November 25, 2009
Congratulations DST! What and excellent write up about a young man who I have always loved reading about; Mr. Roberto Nerey. I don't know who the Pastor is but I commend him for wanting to assist a wonderful guy who for ever has wanted nothing but a better way for our less fortunate youth. I was very impressed with the broad scope of research that was done here, I am assuming that finding it wasn't easy. So, good for your paper to have the dedicated, reporters who dared to make a differance. As an educator, I was especially pleased that you have given space in your paper for the grass root leaders in this community. I'm orginally from Fallon Nv but I now now live and teach in Sacramento, Ca. where I can tell you that these challenges you face here are no differant than anywhere else. The differance is that this community has decided to create change and for that I applaude you. Good luck to Mr. Nerey and the Pastor. If I still lived here, there is not another program that I would want to volunteer rather than theirs. I wish them well. Happy Holdidays to those involved, especially to the staff in the Daily Sparks Tribune. Please keep us posted and let us know how they are doing..

Miss Rodriguez
Xavier Hardesty
September 29, 2009
What is this gang stories that every one is talking about? I have been told by my colleagues about this awesome encounter a young man made with a local pastor after he had struggled for so long. The conversations were being carried away about this whole gang series that the Sparks Tribune had done and yet, I thought very little of it. How long has it been that your first story came out? I believe your stories ran about three months ago and yet people are still talking about this so called awesome connection that this young man has made with a Pastor. I just couldn't take it anymore.I gave in and I finally had to figure out on my own what the big fuzz was about? So here I am, actually reading your numerous stories on gangs and it's just sad to know that this problem exist. I have to say, that the hype is every thing it's been out to be. This story here, touched me, what a great thing has happened. It's almost as if it was a soap opera, every one is just waiting to see, to hear what happens next. I tell you, only in America and wish the two of them the best of luck.

Xavier Hardesty
Sal Rosas
September 06, 2009
As I read this story, I was touched by the words and pictures I both read and saw. Seriously, I cannot remember the last time this news paper did such a wonderful job, your entire series on Gangs and the cross roads our community of Sparks has been in has caught my attention and I want you to know we are listening.

I don't have much to say except a double thank you to both the wonderful Sparks Tribune and Pastor Leslie, a true MAN OF GOD.

Thank God for people like Pastor Williams who attempt to do what we as citizens should be doing. I hope that through Pastor Leslie, Roberto finds both comfort and peace for he is much worthy of experiencing. I am eager to see where he will be two, three years from now, now that he has a place he can call home and a friend who I am sure loves him as a son.

I want to wish the two of you success and victory. What ever happens, don't let those that hate and not participate get in the way of the plan and work God has for the two of you.

Can't wait to stop by and do my part by donating and supporting the program. I hear I make a great volunteer.

Sal Rosas

Retired Nurse
Emil Varga
August 28, 2009

This community should be ashamed for not being able to back the programs that Roberto Nerey has tried to bring forth. This man has a track record of fifteen years of up hill battles and every time he wants to do good, we as a community treat him like an outsider. Right away, we want his resume. But when we realize he is not one of us, cause he speaks his mind and literally has the youth in mind, we tackle him. I say this because I have seen it done to him many times, one after the other, again and again. You know what pisses me off! Is the small groups of people and their little egos who think they really know something. All I can say is good for the Pastor, I'm sure he realized and saw the kind of potential many of us did when we first met Roberto. I hope that his connection with the Pastor is a long and ever lasting one. Great, great story Sparks Tribune, keep up the great work!

Emil Varga

Elain Thomoas
August 28, 2009
Mr. and Mrs. Sparks Tribune. We thank you for hooking up these wonderful groups together. We hope that it will be what Mr. Nerey has needed. The Pastor looks sincere and we know that with a little guidence Unlimited Intervention will be able to blossom to it's full potential. Thank you for the wonderful connection and we expect to be kept informed. There are some ideas that we as a community have that soon we will be able to present with regards to financial assistance.

Elain Thomas
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