DETROIT – Two former high-profile drug dealers are trying to make a positive impact in their old Detroit neighborhoods.
Johnny "Little Man" Curry was called one of the biggest drug dealers on Detroit's east side until he was busted and sent to prison. "White Boy" Rick Wershe has been in prison for more than 30 years after being arrested as a 17-year-old.
Today, both men are giving back to their community -- one in person and one from prison.
A food drive was held on Detroit's east side with all the fixings for a Fourth of July feast for the poor. It was paid by Wershe.
"I've done stuff from here that my attorney knows about it, and my family," Wershe said. "I've raised money for charity. I've done all types of things from here."
Through a GoFundMe page, Wershe asks his supporters to donate to feed families at the neighborhood church where he played basketball as a child. He also does it every Thanksgiving.
Wershe went to prison more than 30 years ago on drug charges, but from behind bars, he delivers random acts of kindness.
"We think it's so important," said Pamela Dickerson, of Immanuel Lutheran Church. "It's a real blessing."
More than 60 families showed up for a pizza party donated by Happy's Pizza.
"It makes everybody happy, and it's just a nice way for the organization to reach out and say, 'We care about you,'" said Vickie Foley, of Happy's Pizza.
Every person walked away with a bag or box of food to feed their family.
"It reminds us that no matter what situation we're in in life, we can always do something to be kind and help our neighbor," Immanuel Lutheran Church co-pastor Lindsay Anderson said.
A few weeks later and a few blocks away, the 37th annual East Side Community Cookout was held. There were ribs and chicken on the grill, a bounce house and ice cream for children.
"This is where I started at, and this is where I'm at, and they're trying to take a lot of stuff away from us," said Loretta Hobbs, of the East Side Community Cookout. "But they can't take this away, because I'm going to keep it going no matter what."
Hobbs said it's not easy keeping the cookout going in an impoverished neighborhood. Recently, the event has received financial support from Curry.
"In the '80s, yeah, I had a lot of power, a lot of pull and a lot of connections, too," Curry said.
In the '80s, Curry ran one of Detroit's largest drug organizations. He wore fur coats and drove $100,000 cars that were all paid for with cocaine money.
After serving 15 years in prison, he's back in his old neighborhood to give back.
"This is where we grew up at," Curry said. "Everybody out here grew up here and everybody, basically, is like family. So we try to do it every year so we can bring everybody back together, have the kids."
At Wershe's food drive, Dickerson put the event in perspective.
"Well, I think that's called redemption," Dickerson said. "I think that we're thankful. I think that when you give, it's helping you as much as it's helping the people that you give to."
Wershe was paroled in Michigan on his drug charges a little over a year ago and was sent to Florida to do time for his part in a car theft ring. He told Local 4 Defender Kevin Dietz over the phone that he still loves donating food in his old neighborhood. He also paints in prison and sends his artwork to sick children around the country.