Chester's Brothers of Concern was born out of the death of a 2-year-old.

Terrance Webster, known as "Pop" because of his love of Pop-Tarts, was killed by a bullet that pierced his family's front door and struck him in the head.

In a community pummeled - and perhaps numbed - by shooting after shooting, Terrance's death in June 2010 was a turning point for Kenny Covert.

"I had to do something," said the 43-year-old pharmaceutical quality control specialist.

Covert gathered a group of Chester men for a call to arms of a different kind. In a community blighted by poverty and crime, they would come up with ways to help.

Two years later, Brothers of Concern is involved in literacy efforts and coat drives, feeding the hungry and mentoring young people. Covert wryly calls the 20 members "street intervention specialists."

For years, Chester has struggled with "poverty, dysfunctional relationships, and the school system is broken," Covert said. "It used to be a booming industrial city. When the industry moved out, the business that took its place was drugs."

The Brothers of Concern have walked the neighborhoods talking to young people. They have served Thanksgiving dinner to the needy at Dawn's Diner and started an initiative to encourage local barbers to become mentors to the youngsters who sit in their chairs.

The group, which is working toward nonprofit status, has collaborated with other organizations, such as Single Mothers Are Really Trying (SMART), the Boys & Girls Club of Chester, and the Delaware County Literacy Council, to host literacy and minority health events.

Part of the group's latest project is visible from I-95 South in Northeast Philadelphia.

Above the highway is a billboard showing 66 African American men from Chester reading books, part of the group's Real Men Really Read campaign.

"We're trying to show people that education is [the answer]," said group president Jonathan Abdur-Rahim King of Chester, who also works as a community liaison for the Mayor's Office.

The billboard picture was taken by John Staples in January during the Martin Luther King Day of Service and was installed in late August. Another billboard is along Route 322 in Aston, Delaware County.

It shows ordinary husbands, fathers, and sons who work as teachers, lawyers, construction workers, politicians, and police officers.

"There's nothing wrong with [using] entertainers," said Nicole Cogdell, the only female member - and lead organizer - of Brothers of Concern. "But [mentorship] is not always about the bling-bling. It's about the man or woman who's catching the bus."

Members have had their own struggles, and the city's violence has hit home.

King's son was injured in a shooting while King was in another part of town at an antiviolence rally. Covert lost a close friend to gun violence five years ago.

On Wednesday, members helped out at the closing ceremony of the Stetser Elementary School's My Main Man program.

For a week, students' male relatives came to school to read with youngsters, make presentations, and sit and observe. Nearly 70 men came to the school, principal Janet Baldwin said.

It is critical, Baldwin told parents and students, that children have male relatives who are interested in their lives - and show it.

For Shanan Rykard, Brothers of Concern has been the bridge to a job at Cheryl's Southern Style Restaurant in Chester. Rykard, 18, a senior at Chester High School, wants to become a chef.

"I met Mr. Kenny [Covert] at the Chester Youth Summit at Widener University," Rykard said. "I told him I wanted to be a chef, and he had the connection. They are helping a lot of young males to get their to dream."

Contact Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.