The last Wednesday of the month is a special time at South Side High School. A group of retirees called the Peace Grannies & Grampies visit during lunch breaks to spread a powerful message and connect with a new generation.

The visits are part of the Peacemaker Program created at the school by Alive Community Outreach, a local nonprofit addressing nonviolence, conflict resolution, and peacemaking.

The idea was born in a church group meeting when the retirees wanted to know what they could do to combat violence in their neighborhoods. “They’re incredible,” says Angelo Mante, Executive Director at Alive. “They weren’t comfortable just meeting at church and talking about violence and peacemaking. They wanted to get involved in an active way.”

Peace grannie Lynne Gilmore and Alive Community Outreach Executive Director Angelo Mante talk with a South Side High School student and another peace grannie.

Lynne Gilmore was one of the peace grannies who eagerly joined the cause. “We’ve all been impacted by seeing the news about violence and conflict,” she said. ” We can’t just sit at home and think something is going to happen magically.”

The lunchtime visits were launched at the start of this school year. School leaders say they’ve had a positive impact on students and staff.

“We were a little hesitant at how this would go,” Says Kyle Emenhiser, South Side High School Vice Principal. “There seems to be such a divide between these two generations, but the biggest takeaway I’ve had is when you see them together, sharing experiences, you find out they have a lot in common.”

A peace grannie talks with a South Side High School student during lunchtime.

Timothy Poindexter, a sophomore, agrees. “We all grew up at some time. Even if we grew up in different times, it gives us things to talk about.”

“I like how our communities connect and intertwine,” says junior Callah Council. “They need us as much as we need them. There are a lot of things that we’ve had to live through that they haven’t, and a lot of things they’ve had to live through that we haven’t.”

South Side High School students Olivia Soto and Callah Council talk with WANE15’s Pat Hoffmann and the Peace Grannies and Grampies program.

The Peace Grannies and Grampies show up armed with candy to help break the ice and get a conversation going. “The candy doesn’t hurt, but the kids are ready and willing to talk because we’re positive and supportive,” says Gilmore. “But, we also want to drive across the principles of nonviolence which is what they are learning about.”

Alan Riebe and his wife Pat have been regular attendees. He says talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s six principles of nonviolence with a younger generation has been inspiring. “My wife and I have been so impressed with the students here at South Side. They have a lot to say. They’re on top of things.”

Pat and Alan Riebe talk with a South Side High School student.

Chris Lahr, Community Education Coordinator at Alive says it’s all about building bridges between ages and races. “It’s about agape love. That’s what we talk about. It’s a love where you see the humanity in all people and it’s been a real, positive thing.”

Sonia Yoder, a junior, wholeheartedly agrees. “Oh my gosh, I love it,” she says with a huge smile. “I walked out of the lunch line and when I saw them, my face lit up because I love seeing them. I love them being able to listen to my story and give me amazing feedback.”

Chris Lahr is the Community Education Coordinator at Alive Community Outreach.

“That’s what it’s really all about,” says Amante. “We have so many young people that need that wisdom and that experience, and we have these people who have that wisdom and experience and want to do something. Let’s try and build that bridge of connection and relationship with openness on both sides.”

The conversations aren’t always easy. A wall in one of the school hallways has a display where over a thousand paper flowers are hung upside down commemorating the number of homicides of young people in the U.S. the past year. It’s a powerful reminder of the lives that have been lost to violence.

More than a thousand flowers are hung upside down commemorating the number of homicides of young people in the U.S.A.

“We need to mourn the death, but we need to empower us to change into bringing about a different culture, says Lahr. “A lot of violence that happens in our society doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. There’s trauma and different things that have happened in kids and we need to deal with that.”

Lahr adds that there will always be violence, but he is undeterred from the mission. “We don’t do it because of the numbers,” he says. “We do it because it’s good and because it’s right and kids are attracted to that.” That’s a message Alive reinforces at the Peacemaker Academy.

It appears the peace grannies and grampies are having an effect on more and more young people on each visit. “It’s really important that they’re here spreading the message of nonviolence,” says sophomore Pawpa Laesay. “It promotes peace and spreads positivity.”

South Side High School Junior Sonia Yoder says she loves her peace grannies and grampies.

“I think it’s really cool to have them at school,” says junior Oliva Soto. “I’ve never had really cool, ‘elderly’ people come in and talk to us and give us a different outlook on the future.”

“If we could all work a little harder to get along every day and have these conversations all over Fort Wayne, I think we could start to turn the tide,” says Riebe. “You’ve got to start somewhere. If we can help one kid with anger management. One kid makes a better decision at school. It will be worth it.”

Gilmore hopes more people will see the message and decide to get involved to be a part of making a change. “We’ve got 1,500 students in the building where we can make a difference. I think the sum total of putting our arms around with love and peace at South Side High School is a win-win for everybody.”

It’s why the Peace Grannies and Grampies are Positively Fort Wayne.