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Chester Community Coalition - Annual Report July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019


Chester Community Coalition received funding from Catholic Health Initiatives through the Congregation of The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in July of 2018.  That funding, for three years, covered one staff person full-time and the cost of contracting group leaders to provide counseling to youth 8-12 years and adults from Child Guidance Resource Centers. 

CCC applied for and was given a one-year grant by Congregation Ohev Shalom to provide art therapy for children 4-7 years.  Our first 12-week bereavement support session ran with three groups:  4-7, 8-12, and adults. 

In October, CCC was funded by the Foundation for Delaware County to provide therapy for youth 13-18 years.  In February of 2019, we commenced the second session of our bereavement support program with four age ranges plus childcare provided by a volunteer.

At the end of May, thanks to grants from The Community’s Foundation and Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, CCC began a 10-week session for survivors of violent assault.  The lead counselor was hired directly and supported by a second-year masters level student. 

CCC is grateful for the work of Child Guidance Resource Center’s staff over the past year.  Their staff was committed, competent and consistent in providing support, guidance, services and program development.  For this current year, we have directly hired licensed counselors to lead our groups.  We've recruited a wonderful team, many of whom have Chester roots or history working in the City. 
CCC is currently pursuing funding to cover a second year of art therapy.  We are also working to build an individual donor base and have successfully held three fundraising house parties, raising over $2000 in total.  We will continue with our house party fundraisers and develop new initiatives to assure the sustainability of our programming.
Program Planning

Developing the current programs was a collaborative and lengthy process.  To avoid the expense of licensing a building to provide therapy, our programs were designed as counseling groups focused on psychoeducation and guided peer support rather than therapy.  Child Guidance Resource Centers, through the efforts of their social workers, art therapist and counseling supervisor, adapted the trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy model for our groups, with a comprehensive manual consisting of lesson plans, activities and assessments.  This manual formed the basis of the 12-week program offered to families bereaved by violence.  The TF CBT model builds progressively on each lesson so is a closed group structure, where families are recruited beforehand and once the program has passed a determined length of time, new families are not permitted to participate.  The spring session ended in May; the third 12-week session will begin October 10th.

We wanted a more flexible approach for the survivor support groups.  We purchased the S.E.L.F (Safety, Emotion management, Loss and Future) curriculum, which is based on the Sanctuary Model.  This model allowed for open groups and is also trauma-based.  The support group outline was started by the Masters-level social work student and provided to the lead counselor for review.  The entire outline is a work in progress, changing based on the experience of delivering this first session of the 10-week groups.  Support groups ended in June 2019 and will resume in September 2019.
Media and Publishing

Over the 2018-2019 year, CCC distributed 4 quarterly newsletters.   

Summer 2018
Fall 2018
Winter 2019
Summer 2019
Our quarterly newsletters reached an average of 129 readers, with an average of 26.8% opening the newsletters and 5.8% interacting with our links.  These numbers are stronger than the nonprofit industry averages -- 21.5% for opens and 1.9% for interactions/clicks.  Currently there are 269 subscribers to our mailing list, and we intend to continue to grow those contacts. 

CCC was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article included an interview with a program participant, who shared her personal experience of violence and the impact it had on her great-niece, who she is raising as her own daughter.  The article is here.

CCC also had the chance to be featured in a podcast titled, Shrinks on Third and hosted a four-week series on grief and trauma in collaboration with CMP Radio, a community internet radio station. The podcasts are featured on our website.

An article with the Catholic journal, Good News Magazine, is forthcoming. 
Collaboration and Networking

Partnering with local organizations and community members is a major focus of our work.  The Chester City Office of Community Liaison has been very supportive.  With their partnership, we were able to put on two Mental Health First Aid trainings at Chester City Hall.  As a result, 14 people were certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid and 18 certified in Adult Mental Health First Aid.  Additionally, we were able to participate in the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Murder in September 2018 and the “All Lives Matter” Candlelight Remembrance ceremony, held December 2018, for all individuals murdered in Chester during the year 2018.
We have participated on the Mayor’s Advisory Council, providing letters of support, input on projects and disseminating information about our programs.  We are also members of the Chester Civic Leaders Association, run by the Community Liaison Office.  We currently help to manage their social media page, which is the main public-facing mode of communication for the Association.

We are newly connected to Crozer Hospital, which can now contact us if someone is admitted for a gun violence-related injury.  We then go to the hospital to meet the patient and family, inform them of our services and help provide brief emotional support at that difficult time.  We are grateful for the trust the hospital staff have put in us and are working hard to ensure we are prepared to serve the patients well.

Major support also came from the Widener University School for Social Work Education.  Through Widener, we gained a co-facilitator for our assault-survivor support groups and will have two Masters level student interns to provide blended case management to participants beginning in the fall.  We grateful that they have offered us the ability to utilize some of their campus facilities should we want to deliver trainings or workshops.

We are also involved with the Cure Violence program being established in Chester, serving on the Hiring Committee.  The project is an exciting one that provides direct, street outreach and case management, employing individuals who have a history with gangs, and other street activities.  It is based on clear understandings that violence is a health issue, that individuals and communities can change for the better, that community partners and strategic partnerships are keys to success, and that rigorous, scientific, professional ways of working are essential for effectiveness.

We partnered with Mothers and Fathers No More Tears, a violence prevention group formed by Chester residents in response to the murder of their family member.  With the co-founder, Suzanne Walker, we applied for and received funding her trained in conflict mediation.  Over the next year she will deliver training to youth in Chester in conflict mediation skills.

The Chester Upland School District has been a very active supporter.  They have included us in their Back-to-School and mid-year parent events, providing us access to families when they are most likely to engage with the school staff.  They have also given us the opportunity to provide training to staff on trauma-informed education.  One of these trainings was completed in April of 2019 and two more are scheduled for August 2019. 
The school district has consistently provided space for us over the last two years in their annual Youth Summit, where we have conducted workshops for youth on healthy communication and relationships, and relaxation and mindfulness. We also work with the area charter schools. We have participated in stress management and relaxation programs for parents at Chester Community Charter School and are developing workshop plans for youth about trauma at the Chester Upland School of the Arts.  
Advisory Board

The founding members of our Advisory Board completed two-year terms.  One founding member is retiring, one is transitioning to Church Liaison, and everyone else signed up for a second two-year term.    During the last year, we ratified our policies and procedures, added new members, utilized the members of our board to guide our program structure and response to conflict when it arose with our partners. 

Currently, the board is amid a strategic planning process.  The first step was a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, which has been collected from all members and will serve as the foundation of the work to develop a strategic plan in the coming fiscal year.  The board has recessed for the summer and will reconvene in September.


We exceeded our goal for outreach this year!  Between community events, workshops, targeted outreach to potential referral sources and street outreach, we have been able to reach over 7,000 people.  We developed a comprehensive outreach strategy focused on building relationships with community partners, from organic organizations developed by residents to more formal institutions such as social service organizations, civic organizations (police, fire) and churches.  We made presentations to the Delaware County Trauma Network (providers who serve individuals experiencing trauma) the Delaware County Social Workers Association; Cheyney University; the Salvation Army; Neumann College and to area organizations. 

We also conducted street outreach independently and with the support of the Community Liaison from the Chester School District.  Our outreach focused on the Ruth Bennett Homes, Tilghman Ave, and Sun Village.  We were able to engage young men and women as a result of our street outreach.  Our street outreach resulted in engagement of a strong cohort of young men 16-20 years old that kept growing by inviting their peers to attend.
We focused on Facebook outreach as one of our strategies for engagement with mixed success.  It was difficult to translate Facebook engagement to actual attendance.  We had one family contacted through Facebook attend the program, despite significant efforts.  Facebook may be a better space for sharing information than for actual recruitment, but we will continue to make all efforts to engage participants to our program.
People Served

This inaugural year has presented its fair share of challenges and rewards. After putting significant time into listening to stakeholders in the Chester community, doing research into evidence-based best practices and establishing program plans that incorporated that work, in addition to the Spectrum of Violence principles and the guidance of our board, we came to realize that nothing can fully prepare us for the experience of implementation. 

Once families entered our programs and interacted with our counselors and staff, we had to nimbly respond to the needs that were presented.  As a trauma-informed organization, we could not dismiss the varied ways trauma had impacted the lives of our clients.  Instead, we had to be ready to support our clients as they needed.  We discovered—quite quickly—many families needed support in dealing with issues like homelessness, food insecurity and imprisonment to participate in the TF CBT process.  Staff found themselves serving as case managers, connecting families to food, winter clothing, Christmas toys and raising funds to help families maintain phone communication and avoid homelessness. 
It became clear that, to facilitate the reduction in violence that is our ultimate goal, we would have to make provisions to support the continued engagement of clients with our program for an extended period of time. We took two approaches: first, we worked with Widener University to establish case management services for client.  Beginning in September, two masters-level interns, under the supervision of a licensed social worker, will support families in setting and reaching SMART goals and connecting to resources. Second, we created a more flexible group structure based on the Sanctuary Model.  TF-CBT builds on knowledge week after week, requiring fairly consistent attendance over 12-weeks. The Sanctuary Model, specifically the S.E.L.F (Safety, Emotion management, Loss and Future) curriculum, provides a more flexible 10-week structure.  The groups are open, so clients can join at any time and still receive a benefit from participation.  This flexibility lent itself to strong attendance from participants.
Over the first year of programming, we were able to serve a total of 60 individuals. This exceeds our yearly goal for recruitment, but we struggled with retention.  We are far from our goal of less than 20% attrition. We have learned from this year that the need is there, and people are willing to access our services. We hope by building in case management and creating more flexibility in the structure of our programming we can do better at retention. 

The greatest lessons we learned this year were to practice consistent cultural humility, as well as cultural competence in every aspect of our program. This means we trust our clients, respect their experiences and expertise in the navigation of their lives, and provide services that are tailored to meet their needs. We are also working to be even more explicitly trauma-informed in our operations, our outreach and our service delivery in the coming year.

The feedback from our participants has been helpful throughout.  Criticism offered was utilized to foster discussion among staff and adjust our programming.  Adults and youth expressed satisfaction with their ability to access our program and communicate with staff, they also reported strengths of the program as:
  • The presence of others with similar experiences and
  • Having welcoming and competent staff
  • Having childcare, and
  • Having meals available
We intend to continue to provide a positive experience for our families who are trusting us with their trauma and grief.

Next Steps

As we move into the coming year, we are excited about our team of facilitators.  We anticipate providing consistently high-quality, responsive and trauma-centered support programs moving forward. We are continually seeking volunteers to help with childcare.  We are also interested in volunteers to help us with technical support. 

Supervision to manage secondary trauma is being established for program staff in addition to the supervision for counselors.  Addressing secondary trauma is key to avoiding burnout and being able to provide effective and compassionate services. Case managers will also have access to supervision as well.

We hope to expand our services in a significant way, by providing 10-15 hours of individual and family therapy during the coming year.  It is an exciting prospect and one that would allow us to manage the referrals of newly affected clients in-house, instead of having to refer them elsewhere immediately.  This therapy is likely to be short-term, but we are in very early stages of exploring this idea.

Thank you!
We would like to acknowledge all the support we have received to bring this program to life.  The welcome, guidance and collaborations we have experienced have been essential to our success.  Thank you to all the organizations, community members and congregations that have made our program possible.  Thanks go out to the:
  • Congregation of Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, who made it possible to apply for Catholic Health Initiatives Violence Prevention Grant and Anna’s Place, who housed us;
  • Shiloh Baptist Church, which houses us now;
  • Child Guidance Resource Centers;
  • Sr. Virginia Spiegel, who was a faithful steward of our early finances;
  • Sr. Jean Rupertus, whose leadership has kept us close to our mission; and
  • Fran Stier, who plays almost every role in our programming-- in addition to being our Finance Officer
Thanks also go out to our funders, without whom we could not do this work:
  • Catholic Health Initiatives
  • The Foundation for Delaware County
  • Congregation Ohev Shalom
  • The Community's Foundation
  • Swarthmore Presbyterian Church
  • The Ann Richan Fund, Swarthmore Friends Meeting
  • Reformation Lutheran Church
  • The Sisters of St. Francis Social Justice Fund, and
  • Generous individual donors and congregations

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