The Rocky Hill Community Church and the Exeter Police Department worked together to put on E-Town, an anti-gang outreach event in Exeter City Park on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Exeter Mayor Robyn Stearns welcomed those who attended the event.
“This is a city where everyone knows everyone. That wasn’t so good when I was a kid because my parents already knew what I had done before I could get home,” Stearns said. “Now I understand it helps keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Stearns also wanted to thank the Exeter Police department.
“They go into places most of us avoid and take care of things we don’t even want to think about,” Stearns said. “We are lucky to live where we live.”
The event also featured food, raffles, bounce houses and speaker Paul Patino.
Patino grew up in Farmersville and found himself on the streets at the age of 12 years old when he fled an abusive home.
“I was eating out of trash cans and doing whatever it took to survive,” said Patino. “What amazes me is not one time did someone ask. ‘Where’s your mom?’”
Patino was in and out of trouble until he wound up doing four years on a Domestic Violence charge.
“I just have to praise God for my wife, Anna. She has never thrown it in my face and she showed up for every visit,” he said.
Anna Patino said, “I know a lot of people wondered why I put up with him and why I took him back, but I knew what he was like off drugs and I knew if he could get off them it would be worth it. I knew he could only do that with God and he has. I am not telling women to stay with men who abuse them, but if you find God, He can fix any situation.”
Patino pointed out to the audience that he had been on Parole for 14 years.
“I just got off parole, he said. “It’s the first time in a long time I can say that.”
Patino said that because he had been on the streets at such an early age he turned to gangs.
“They were like the family I never had,” he said. “I was fighting all the time and using every kind of drug.”
Patino found himself in the Tulare County jail in the early 90’s.
“There were some gang bangers trying to escape and got caught,” he said.
Patino said officers at the facility made it look like he had ratted out on the gang bangers.
“I have been beat up, shot, stabbed and left for dead all over that incident and I did not do anything,” he said.
Patino told about how he had a chance meeting with the guard who he said had set him up.
“He did not recognize me and I stood there with all this anger, but I knew I had to forgive him and I did. That’s what this whole thing is about. How can I expect forgiveness if I am not willing to forgive.” he said.
Patino said he could go on and on about all the bad things he has done.
“But you can watch all that stuff on TV,” he said. “I am here to tell you God loves you. If He can love me, He can love you. Just give Him a little bit of your time and you’ll see. You deserve to be happy and have peace and God can give you that.”