Between the late 1980's and early 1990's, Greenville was one of the roughest neighborhoods in Charlotte, NC. During that time, Greenville lost two of its youth: one to murder and one to prison. It was this incident that inspired Thomas "Pop" Sadler, along with his wife, Marie, to take action.
The Sadler's realized that Greenville was losing its children to the streets and felt they somehow had to stop it. In 1991, they decided to start a drum corps for youth, ages 4-18. To remain a member of the group, there were rules that the participants had to follow or be expelled: each had to show continual improvement in their grades, obey their parents and stay out of trouble.
Since its beginning, the program, now called the Greenville Combined Youth Organization (CYO), has expanded to include a resource center with computers, tutoring and a summer day camp. CYO currently serves more than 50 kids.
Under the direction of Mr. Sadler, the drum corps performs, in uniform, at no charge, for city and county events, festivals and parades. They are also a traveling band and have won numerous competitions. The drum corps has even performed at a Charlotte Hornets basketball game during half time. The band is so successful that other communities have made contact to replicate the corps.
The most recent addition to the program is its resource center, which was opened nearly two years ago. The center is utilized by the entire community. Teachers from Johnson C. Smith University teach computer literacy in this grant-funded house to anyone interested, especially children and their parents. The computer center is also partially funded by the local government, which sponsors various job placement programs. This marks the second year that the community has had a summer day camp at the center, where neighborhood children participate in enrichment activities and field trips. Members of the drum corps and other programs help out at the camp.
Since the Sadlers founded the Greenville CYO, there has been a marked decrease in crime, especially juvenile crime. In addition, there has been an increase in community pride and self-esteem among the youth and old alike.
The Sadlers have received a lot of financial help from various corporations and local businesses to run the program. In addition, they hold fundraisers, write grant proposals, as well as receive assistance from Johnson C. Smith University.