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

Chester Community Coalition

Spring 2019 Newsletter

Thanks to lots of input and, in collaboration with the therapists from Child Guidance Resource Centers, we are happy to introduce our new name and logo!  Our counseling program is now called Healing and Strength and the logo for the program (see above) was designed by our resident art therapist, Alexandra Cimorelli.  We are thrilled with the result!  

The name better reflects the purpose of our program and the image captures our desired effect.  Let us know if you would like copies of our new brochure which features the new name and images and we'll get them out to you, right away!


Trauma-informed Counseling

We are midway through the second cohort of our program. it has been an emotional and educative process.  We still need to increase our recruitment to offset the attrition that occurs.  At the same time, we are getting more interest, calls and referrals than we did the first time around.  We are building a good referral network to connect families who would be better served by programs dealing more generally with grief and loss-- especially related to illness.  

We are receiving positive feedback from the participants in this cohort, indicating that the changes we have made to the curriculum and our approach are meeting their needs.  Though we lost a significant portion of our recruits, those who remain attend consistently and are in reliable conversation with the counselors and program staff.  

The most encouraging part of this cohort has been seeing the change in participants.  Young people who were completely closed off and avoidant are expressing affection to members of the staff, children who had multiple suspensions from school are now being commended for the improvement in their behavior and parents who haven't had time or space to really care for themselves are learning how and practicing those skills. 

It shows that this program works.  All we need now, is for more people to take advantage of what we offer. If you have referrals to suggest, please contact us at 610-368-0714, by email or go through our website,   

Support Groups for Survivors of Violence

We are gearing up to provide two new support groups, starting mid-April.  One group will be for people who have survived a violent experience and are living with the effects of that violence.  The second group will be for caregivers and family of victims of violence.  

Restoring Hope support groups will take place at Shiloh Baptist Church from 5-7 on Tuesday evenings.  They will be led by a licensed social worker-- Doug Ford-- with significant experience.  Groups are open, meaning there is flexibility for when people can start or join the group.  

The groups are organized around Dr. Sandra Bloom's Sanctuary model.  They use the SELF curriculum.  A master's level social work student from Widener University is currently working on the program outline to cover 10 weeks of hourlong sessions.

If you know someone who could benefit from group support with others who have similar experiences, please let them know!  A working draft of our flyer is available here.

Herbal Therapy for Trauma

Herbalist Tiffany Robbins talks with youth from the Healing and Strength program about scents and self-care.

We are happy to welcome Tiffany Robbins, a licensed herbalist and Chester native, to our team!  Tiffany has volunteered her time, thanks to an introduction by our art therapy aide, LaNoana Odom. 

Since being here, Tiffany has attended our program on Thursdays, providing herbal teas during mealtimes and developing aromatherapy sleep aids for families dealing with the effects of trauma like insomnia and flashbacks.  On evenings when she doesn't attend, participants ask when the "tea lady" is going to be back.  She brings a lot of care, kindness and good humor to our evenings!

The aromatherapy sleep aid sachets are pictured below.  They were an attractive conversation starter at Family of Hearts, the annual memorial event for murdered individuals held at Chester Upland High School on 3/16/19.  They will also be available at the upcoming Family Summit at STEM High School on April 27th.  Lastly, we are planning to hold classes on aromatherapy, healing herbs and nourishing teas for relieving trauma reactions in the near future.  We'll definitely keep you posted!
Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men.

In 1990, as the crack epidemic devastated low-income neighborhoods, Dr. John Rich, an internist at Boston City Hospital, met a colleague – a surgeon – in the stairwell, and the two tried to think what they could do to protect young, black men from being stabbed and shot.  Rich realized he shared the implicit assumption that “young black men don’t just get shot, they get themselves shot.”

These were the years when John DiIulio was writing about
"...radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more preteenage boys, who murder, assault, rape, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs and create serious communal disorders…inner-city children grow[ing] up surrounded by teenagers and adults who are themselves deviant, delinquent or criminal."

Superpredators were seen as incapable of rehabilitation: they needed to be charged as adults and locked up to protect the public.

Within a few years, DiIulio’s predictions of rising juvenile crime rates were proved wrong and his superpredator theory debunked, but not before creating a popular impression that civilization was under siege by “an army of sociopaths.”  

In the hundreds of hours Rich spent talking with violently-injured young black men over the next 12 years, he encountered few, if any sociopaths. He found vulnerable kids caught up in a robbery attempt, a fight with a friend, a threat to someone’s sense of respect.  He began to see them not as sick, defective people who need treatment or bad people who need punishment, but as injured by poverty, loss and violence, and in need of healing.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time follows a few young men who came through Boston City Hospital through the months after they were discharged. 
There was Kari, wounded by gunshots by a thief who stole his gold chain, lying on a gurney as ER doctors cut off his clothes, intubate and sedate him for the operating room.  We see him gripping Dr. Rich’s hand to get through the pain of having his wounds cleaned, and then in the clinic the next week, we hear how Kari experienced the ER care in those moments when there was no time to explain what was happening to him.  Shaken by his brush with death, he vows to be a better father to his son, unlike Kari’s own father, who was never around.

Six weeks later, at his grandmother’s house, Kari is less hopeful.  His attacker has been caught and locked up, but Kari imagines he sees him all the time.  Kari can’t bring himself to walk past the place he was shot.  Gaining strength back is slow, hard work.

Jimmy, aged 17, in a pediatric ward, had been shot 6 times by a former crime partner.  His mother used cocaine; his father was in jail.  He was one of the few who talked openly about gang membership and the importance of having a “rep” and not being a sucker who doesn’t stick up for himself. 


When Rich asked what would be needed for peace in the neighborhoods, Jimmy replied, "No guns for nobody except the police. And that would be odd because there’s guns everywhere.  Everywhere.  Everybody and their mama got guns, so it ain’t going to ever stop."

Most of the medical staff saw these young men as either innocent (if they were calm, seemed grateful and made eye contact) or likely criminals (if they avoided eye contact, answered in monosyllables, or complained about their care). 

Listening to these young men, Dr. Rich found a more complex reality.  Some had been robbed or had been hit by random bullets.  A few said unapologetically they were involved in gangs and dealt drugs.  Most of the accounts he heard were somewhere in between – either escalating arguments over girls or some trivial slight, fueled by drugs or alcohol, or revenge for some perceived disrespect – talking to the wrong girl, or bumping shoulders with someone.

David and Antoine were cousins and best friends; they grew up together.  One night, when they went with some friends to see some girls in the projects, they both got shot.  Antoine was killed, David was wounded.   David went with Antoine’s brother to identify Antoine in the morgue.  Weeks later, David was still dreaming about Antoine, imagining that he was inside Antoine’s head, seeing himself lowered into the grave.  Things that used to scare David no longer frighten him.  He felt numb. “I think my heart got a little stone in it”.

Baron, aged 19, was badly stabbed in the abdomen in a fight with a former friend over a girl.  Months later, he dreaded being alone at night: he had nightmares about being stabbed or shot.  He smoked marijuana each night to go to sleep and to prevent the nightmares.

The flashbacks, numbing, hypervigilance and nightmares that Kari Jimmy, David, and Baron experienced are all PTSD symptoms.  Studies have shown
[1] PTSD rates of up to 75% in Emergency Department patients with stab or gunshot wounds.

Without intervention, up to 45% of people with a gunshot or stab wound risk being injured again within 5 years, and 20% will be killed.  Dr. Rich went on to help develop a Healing Hurt People
[2] to link young people like Kari, Jimmy, David, and Baron with trained, culturally competent case managers, to be sure they got mental health treatment, follow-up medical care, legal assistance, and social services. (Most Philadelphia hospitals have such programs; the Crozer-Chester does not).  Evaluations of programs like these show they can dramatically reduce re-injury and improve outcomes.[3]
[1] Corbin, T, J. Purtle, L Rich, J Rich, E Adams, G Yee, S Bloom.  “The Prevalence of Trauma and Childhood Adversity in an Urban, Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program>
[3] R. Thomas and M. McBride.  Healing Communities in Crisis.  Lifesaving Solutions to the Urban Gun Violence Epidemic.  Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and PICO National Network.  2016.

Upcoming events

NAACP Award Banquet- April 26: Tickets available, Advisory Board member, Sis. Barbara Muhammad will be honored.

Family Summit- April 27, 2018: CCC will be providing a workshop on trauma and self-care and tabling at this event. 

Mental Health First Aid- April 30 & May 1, 12-4 pm, City Hall: Training and certification in Adult MHFA. Free and open


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

Copyright © 2019 Chester Community Coalition, All rights reserved.

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