On Monday, the Champaign County Coalition partnered with the Trauma and Resilience Initiative to host an Open House for community members concerned with the recent rise in gun violence to learn about volunteer opportunities.
Event organizer Mary Catherine Roberson stressed that there is a great need for community members to fill these vacant positions so that people feel that they can trust institutions. Roberson said that “When you reach out in areas and communities that are marginalized, oftentimes you’ll find they don’t trust institutions. Sometimes that’s with good reason because they’ve had a history of not being able to. But, when we have people from the community who are involved with us, they have that direct connection with the people who live there, so it brings some credibility and trustworthiness.”
Though the event was intended to acquaint community members with ways that they can make a difference, it became an open discussion about the devastating effects of gun violence. Amanda Steffins, a community member who attended the event, said that the helpers are what create hope after tragic events. “With all of the negative that you see in healthcare and potentially in the community, looking for the helpers always tends to make things very hopeful. There is a lot of great leaders in this town and teachers and healthcare providers and community members and church members that make this place as wonderful as it is and it’s very much helpful to keep up hope. There’s more good than bad and there’s a lot of helpers here that want to be a part of the solution.”
There is no one magic fix to end violence. Roberson, however, suggests that investing in the youth may be an answer, inspired by the quote “the child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”
“If we can create the community where the young folks are welcomed and embraced and believe that-because sometimes they are and they don’t realize it…Would that end it? No. I don’t know what the magic answer is, but I know that it’s going to require a lot of investment in young people.”