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Our mission: To ameliorate the psychological and emotional impact of homicides and reduce trauma-related reactive violence in the City of Chester,  PA

Chester Community Coalition 

Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 2019


Recently, our work was covered by the Philadelphia InquirerWe are thankful to our client, Selina, for sharing her experience with our program.  We also appreciated the chance to share about our services with a broader audience.

Hopefully, it will inspire more people to reach out to our program and take on the difficult work of healing from traumatic grief


In Chester, new program takes a group approach to healing scars of gun violence


Together to Heal

On an early August morning in Chester, Selina Reese faced a task no guardian ever asks for-- a task for which she was not prepared. 

How was she going to tell Layla, her great-niece, who calls her "Momma," that her father had been shot to death the night before?  How could she, someone who never experienced loss in such a violent manner, break the news to a 7-year-old?



After telling him about our experience with the youth focus group, the same reporter, Vinny Vella, connected with leaders of the boxing gym that hosted us and wrote an article on their great work.  

That story was recently published in the Inquirer as well!

In its quest to save Chester’s youth, boxing gym pulls no punches

In its quest to save Chester’s youth, boxing gym pulls no punches

It's all about keeping the hands busy, James Starkey said, ringside in the small, squat cinder block building that serves as his second home.



Here are a few other recent articles on violence prevention and gun violence that are worth a read:

Because of a gun . . . On MLK Day, Philadelphia students share how guns impacted their lives
"Because of a gun my father was murdered 3 days before my 12th birthday... Because of a gun me and my brothers and sisters will never be the same again. Because of a gun I lost the person that meant the world to me..."

Philadelphia’s finally going after straw gun buyers. It’s about time. 
The 2009 ordinance... doesn't regulate guns.  It rightly requires gun owners to report when their weapons are lost or stolen, and penalizes them when they don't.

Study: Teen suicide rates higher in states where gun ownership is common
In the 10 states with the highest youth suicide rates, the average household gun ownership rate was more than 50 percent, according to the study.  In the 10 states with the lowest suicide rates, it was 20 percent.  That includes New Jersey, which had the lowest youth suicide rate in the nation.  "The availability of firearms is contributing to an increase in the actual number of suicides..." 


An Open Letter to our Community


This month a year ago, Alexia, Sr. Jean and I were scrambling to assemble a Violence Prevention Grant application to Catholic Health Initiatives, ahead of a March 1, 2018 deadline.  We thought a program based on trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy would help families impacted by violence to heal.  We were excited to learn in July that CHI would fund us for three years.

The application required that our objectives be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).  Now we’re measuring our actual progress against the SMART goals in our application for mid-year reports to our funders – how are we doing?

We’re so grateful to be able to serve a wider age range of kids, with additional grants from two other wonderful funders, The Foundation for Delaware County and Congregation Ohev Shalom.  The table below shows who these grants allow us to help, and for how long.

Our first group of families entered the program at the end of September:  five families, with 6 adults, 5 teens, and 3 younger children, so a smaller group than our goal of 18 kids and 18 parents.  We learned the importance of continuing school outreach, especially since many schools have high staff turnover.

Four of the five families had lost one or more loved ones to homicide, the fifth had a son paralyzed from a gunshot wound.  Bereavement and disability pose different challenges to families.  We are forming a separate support group for the families of survivors of non-fatal assaults.

Listening to feedback, we are to strengthening the curriculum to better address parents’ distress by incorporating more peer support and information on traumatic grief.

Families attendance was lower than our goal:  explanations for missed sessions included incarceration, housing insecurity (2 families), unpredictable work schedules, phone disconnections (3 families).  We are recruiting case manager support to help participants deal with food and housing insecurity.  

We all learned from these 12 weeks.  Through art therapy, a young girl began to understand how she could still be connected to someone who is no longer there.  Through group discussions teens and adults learned that headaches, flashbacks, irritability and difficulty concentrating could all be effects of trauma, and how relaxation techniques could help them overcome these symptoms.  Group leaders were struck by the emotional intensity of the challenges the families faced:  poverty, housing, community violence.

We are now recruiting families for 12 weeks of counseling beginning Thursday, February 21st.

With gratitude,
Fran Stier
Board Secretary and Treasurer

Spring Program

We have currently recruited 8 adults and 11 children for the spring program, with youth ranging from 4 to 17 years of age.  We held one evening of intakes on February 7th and will conduct another set of intakes on February 14th.

In preparation for the spring session, we actively pursued an outreach strategy with five components:
  1. Strengthening community partnerships with local organizations;
  2. Community outreach to individuals and groups;
  3. Outreach to religious organizations;
  4. Working with Chester City government;  and
  5. Social media promotion.
These areas of focus led us to 1719 community encounters between July and December of 2018.  They include most of the following presentations and workshops on our program and trauma-informed practices:
  • 8/4/2018:     Building Peace Conference at Neumann University
  • 8/31/2018:   The Women’s Circle, Chester
  • 9/25/2018:   Chester Senior Center
  • 11/7/2018:   Delaware County Social Workers’ Association
  • 11/7/2018:   Katherine Drexel Elementary School Parent Association
  • 11/8/2018:   On the Table, Cheyney University
  • 11/14/2018: Chester Community Charter School Social Workers and Interns
  • 1/11/2019:  Chester Upland School District, Toby Elementary School
We are still learning the culture of the City of Chester and the varied challenges our clients face that inhibit their ability to consistently access the service we provide.The entire process of starting our program has been educative in helping us better provide a therapeutic environment for this community. 
We have also learned that some of our goals were very ambitious for the start of a program, in some ways we are exceeding our goals and in others, we have fallen short.  Still, our outreach efforts are beginning to pay-off.  People are voluntarily sharing information about our program with each other and we have gotten our first self-referral from a social media campaign. As we continue to establish our reputation and provide professional, responsive, and respectful services, we expect our recruitment numbers to continue to improve.  But that—like everything else—will take time.


We're so blessed that congregations and individual donors support our work.  Donations pay the rent for our office and program spaces, pay the copying cost for flyers for outreach, pay for Lyft rides for our clients who don’t have cars, and buy simple, healthy suppers for us all to share before counseling starts.

To support our work, click on the Donate button below:


Or, checks can be made out to “UAC / Chester Community Coalition” and mailed to

Urban Affairs Coalition attn:  Lee Wall

1207 Chestnut St.  7th floor

Philadelphia, PA 19107



We provide trauma-informed support services to families directly affected by gun violence.  Our counseling services are geared towards Chester families who are actively interested in healing after experiencing violent trauma. 

We also provide training in Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid.

If you are interested in accessing our counseling services, requesting a training or other outreach, or would like to volunteer with the organization, complete our form and we will respond. 

You are not alone and healing is possible.




Spring Counseling Session
February 21- May 19, 2019; 5:30-7:30 pm

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