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 Awarded $431,531 in Grants to Provide Trauma-Informed Support Services in Chester, PA

Chester, PA- June 28, 2018 -  The Chester Community Coalition has received a $421,731 grant from Catholic Health Initiatives’ Mission and Ministry Fund through the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia to provide trauma-informed support services to survivors of gun violence and $9,800 from Congregation Ohev Shalom’s Outreach Grant to provide art therapy for young children from families bereaved by violence in Chester, PA.

The goal of the Coalition is to deliver programs to heal the psychological and emotional impact of homicides and reduce trauma-related reactive violence in the City of Chester. Homicide bereavement in disadvantaged communities of color takes a heavy toll:  depression and PTSD that extend many years after the loss.[i]  Families exhaust their savings and borrow to cover funeral costs[ii].  Mothers who have lost sons to gun violence feel stigmatized and isolated.[iii]  Children suffer intrusive re-imaginings and angry outbursts.[iv]  

Money will be allocated to provide group therapy for families who have lost someone to homicide or experienced injury by gun violence, and coordinate peer-based violence education and volunteer trauma response teams.  The programs will be led by the coordinating committee of Fran Stier, Sister Jean Rupertus, Sister Virginia Spiegel and Alexia Clarke.
The Chester Community Coalition sincerely thanks Catholic Health Initiatives, 
Congregation Ohev Shalom and the Sisters of St. Francis for their support.

As has been shown in other settings, we anticipate that these early interventions will reduce reactive violence, empower the community dealing with toxic stress and build a safer city in which to live. 

Our programs can only be accomplished in partnership with City of Chester residents, social and business organizations and political entities. Over the 2017-2018 planning year, the Chester Community Coalition (CCC)s has developed a board reflecting Chester’s diversity.  The Coalition has also actively participated in community meetings, events and outreach. Transparency, respect, commitment and service are the fundamental values from which we have begun this work and with which we will continue.

For more information, please contact Alexia Clarke at, 610-368-0714.  Also visit us at,, or

[i] McDevitt-Murphy, et al. “The Toll of Traumatic Loss in African Americans Bereaved by Homicide”.  Psychological Trauma:  Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy 4(3) pp 303-311.  2012
[iii] Hannays-King, C et al  “Social support and Black mothers’ bereavement experience of losing a child to gun homicide”.  Bereavement Care 34(1) 10-16.  2015.
[iv] Mannarino, A, and Cohen, J.  “Traumatic Loss in Children and Adolescents”.  Trauma 4(1) pp 22-33.  2011.

Mental Health First Aid

The Chester Community Coalition is now able to provide Mental Health First Aid training in the City of Chester!  Program Coordinator, Alexia Clarke, was recently certified as an instructor in Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. The training helps to identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.

Our first training was held May 31, 2018 at City Hall in partnership with Lisa Dennis and the  City of Chester Office of Community Liaison.  Fourteen attendees successfully completed the course to become Mental Health First Aid providers!

If you would like to bring a training to your community or organization, contact us at 610-368-0714 or

Understanding ACEs

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)  create foundational ways of interacting with the world that can limit a person's ability to fully function in their lives-- affecting their ability to work, learn, relate to others and experience emotional health.  

The trauma experienced in the aftermath of a murder or shooting is significant.  The impacts on youth, in particular, are severe and lasting. By providing group therapy to families, including children, the Chester Community Coalition is working to intervene early-on to reduce the long-term consequences of this trauma.


The pyramid below shows the chain of risks set off by ACEs:


Between 1995 and 1997, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente (a large HMO) surveyed over 17,000 mostly white, mostly college-educated, middle class adults with good health insurance and measured how many people had experienced abuse, neglect, or household challenges in childhood – Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs. The higher the ACEs score, the higher the risk of experiencing negative health consequences later in life.



The study showed that ACEs are common – 64% of these middle-class adults reported at least one. 

Taking Action

What can be done to reverse the effects of childhood trauma?  Understanding the science is an important first step.  Mindfulness training, exercise, good nutrition, enough sleep and positive social interaction can all help.  Interventions like Nurse-Family PartnershipHealthy Steps, Child First, Incredible YearsTriple P Parenting build resilience in parents and children.   

Remember: ACEs do not determine the course of your life.  If you are dealing with effects related to ACEs, know that: They are treatable.  They are beatable.

Data on ACEs

Below are charts showing the relationship between ACEs and experiences such as alcoholism and depression. 

Higher ACE scores increased a person’s risk for alcoholism:

Higher ACE scores increased risk of experiencing chronic depression:


People with four or more ACEs were more likely to develop severe obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease, and depression than people with no ACEs:


The ACEs Questionnaire 

Here are the questions used to establish an ACE score:

Prior to your 18th birthday:
1.      Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
No___  If Yes, enter 1 ___

2.      Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

3.      Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

4.      Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

5.      Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

6.      Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

7.      Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

8.      Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

9.      Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                        
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

10.   Did a household member go to prison?
No___If Yes, enter 1 ___

Now add up your “Yes” answers: ___

This is your ACE Score.

For a great video introduction to why ACEs matter, click here. 
To learn much more about ACE scores and their effects, click here.

To learn about how childhood trauma affects the brain, click here.
For a TED talk by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, showing how a pediatrician puts knowledge about ACEs into practice, click here.

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