WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — John Ayala joined the New York City Guardian Angles at 14-years-old in the mid 80’s.

Ayala said he noticed the Guardian Angels one day standing on the corner and thought they were gang members.

“They told me their goal is to patrol neighborhoods to help keep people safe,” said Ayala. “I knew I wanted to be a part of that.”

Ayala said news began to spread nationwide about the impact of the Guardian Angels. The group was getting so popular that officials in D.C. called the New York chapter to see if they can come down and help.

“We were having success dealing [with] the drug trafficking,” Ayala said. “That was a major problem here in the late 80’s.”

Ayala moved to Washington, D.C. in 1989 to help start the Guardian Angels in the District.

“We are optimistic that we could make a difference,” he said. “We recruited young people and many of them would go into other neighborhoods for the very first time, and it helped them learn about the diversity of the District.”

Ayala says many volunteers have moved on to have successful careers.

“We have had several go into security or law enforcement,” Ayala said. “Some have become teachers, and they come back and tell me their time with the angels was a positive experience that gave them hope that they could be successful.”

Ayala’s 11-year-old grandson was shot and killed in July 2000 while running into a convenience store. He said it was devastating and he became more committed to the cause.

“Since it hit home, I decided to work harder,” he said. “We are helping other families who have lost loved ones and we are helping other organizations, so I don’t know when I am going to stop because, there is more work to be done every day.”