Courtesy of Ice the Beef

On Dec. 19, Ice the Beef — a New Haven-based nonprofit that aims to curb gun violence — plans to hold a prayer vigil in Waterbury, Connecticut. Ice the Beef is currently expanding its efforts outside of New Haven and into Waterbury.

Darrell Allick, a former drug dealer, founded Ice the Beef in 2011 after his brother was shot and killed earlier that year. The organization began with a focus on supporting the families of victims of gun violence, offering bereavement services such as organizing and covering funeral costs. However, when Chaz Carmon, the current president of Ice the Beef, joined the group in 2013, he pivoted the organization’s mission towards violence prevention and community engagement.

“When I joined, I said you guys are burying people,” Carmon told the News in an interview. “Why are we not stopping them from dying before they get killed?”

Nearly 10 years since its founding, Ice the Beef now organizes rallies around issues such as gun violence, voting rights, domestic violence and poverty. It has also pioneered a number of programs in New Haven aimed at engaging youth — including Education in Stage Arts, Youth in Government and a basketball league.

According to Carmon, gun violence cannot be targeted in isolation. Poverty, drugs, domestic violence and gang culture are all contributing factors.

The array of programs at Ice the Beef aim to offer opportunities for kids to develop their passions productively. Education in Stage Arts, for example, brings professional actors, singers and comedians together with kids interested in pursuing a career in entertainment.

For some, like 15-year old Manuel Camacho, these programs have provided an alternative to involvement in drugs and crime.

Camacho told the News he grew up in a “heavily gang affiliated” environment. He said often, he saw “shootouts and cars exploding right outside [his] front door.”

For a long while, this was the only life Camacho envisioned for himself.

“I was taught, and trained and lived every day growing up to be a gang member,” Camacho explained.

Camacho joined Ice the Beef at the age of 13 and is now the organization’s youth president. He recalled how he was “skeptical” when he first joined, but said the organization has now supported him in honing his interest in public speaking.

More importantly, he said, Ice the Beef helped him to “actually do something with [his] life.”

“If you would have told me, prior to joining Ice the Beef, that one day I would be youth president, or having interviews with reporters about the things I’ve done, or be able to help the community in the ways I’m doing, I would have looked at you like you were the craziest person in the world,” said Camacho in an interview with the News.

Camacho said he now hopes to help others like him resist the pressures “to succumb to their environment.”

Ice the Beef’s plans to expand to Waterbury was born out of a mission to support youths in other cities across Connecticut, according to Carmon. The team responsible for the expansion are all long-time residents of Waterbury.

Ana Faroli, Ice the Beef Waterbury’s director of family services, said she has experienced firsthand the positive effects of Ice the Beef in New Haven. Faroli said she wanted to bring those benefits back to the community she had grown up in and raised her children in.

“I always believe that you should give back to the community which gave to you,” she said. 

Faroli added that an organization like Ice the Beef was much needed in Waterbury, which she stated has seen an “uptick” in gun violence, gangs and opiate addiction in recent years.

Darrell Copeland, Ice the Beef Waterbury’s vice president of operations, attributed this upward trend in crime to a decline in community involvement and youth organizations. He said he believes that Ice the Beef can bring something “unique” to Waterbury — not only by raising awareness of issues surrounding gun violence and drug addiction, but also by implementing arts, mentoring and sports programs for youth.

“We want to offer the same opportunities to those that may not be fortunate enough to grow up in an environment where their dreams and accomplishments are celebrated and encouraged,” Copeland said.

Their first event, a candlelight vigil for victims of gun violence and opiate addiction, is aimed at establishing Ice the Beef’s presence within Waterbury.

“We just want to offer support to those who need support and let them know that we’re here,” said Justin Pesce, Ice the Beef Waterbury’s director of youth services, in an interview with the News.

In the coming months, the team plans to partner with local churches and the Waterbury Police Activity League in order to begin establishing relationships with community leaders and residents.

Ice the Beef Waterbury plans to hold its prayer vigil and memorial service in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Waterbury on Dec. 19.

Vanika Mahesh |