By Juanita Godfrey
It is His will that every need be supplied
You are important to me
I need you to survive *
On April 1, the Monongahela Marsden Block Association held a Victims of Violent Crimes Luncheon at the newly remolded Spartan Center in Hazelwood. The theme was “I Need You to Survive.” Everyone joined in singing the song of the same name by Hezekiah Walker.
Mary Collier, Ursula Craig, Vernessa Fuller, Juanita Godfrey Humphrey and Deaconess Deloris Livsey organized the event, which was attended by residents of Hazelwood and beyond. Valarie Dixon and Geraldine Massey, staff members at Victims of Violent Crimes, also attended. Ms. Massey spoke of losing her two sons to violence.
The speakers shared moving personal stories. Adrienne Young, executive director of Tree of Hope and a mother who lost her son to gun violence, spoke about how Tree of Hope assists families all over the city:
In 2002 the Tree of Hope was formally established with professors, police officer, researchers from Allegheny Hospital, the Wholeys of the Strip District, various Pittsburgh Public Schools, churches and parents who had suffered the loss of their children. We started addressing the children who were left behind with services including housing, clothing and food, and provided counseling for the children and families. In most impoverished neighborhoods there was no help available. We sponsored art therapy programs for the children, and picnics to bring the families together for relaxation and fun. There was nothing in place to provide Christmas for the children who were left with a single parent. We started Tree of Hope to give these families a Christmas. We were joined by the Pittsburgh Steelers, area businesses and magnanimous members of the public.
Since then, we also started the “Cop and Kids program” to build relationships with our police bureau. The “Adopt a Mom” program began after we saw mothers struggling to raise their children. It has been very successful! We engage the family in the home after a homicide, assist with funeral arrangements, provide victims' compensation funds to help pay burial expenses, and provide a “Hope Basket” of food and refreshments. We include an information packet titled “Where to Turn,” and a back-to-school program for children who lost their parent or parents. We are there to provide help, hope and healing.
Center of Life's Kiyomi Knox, MSW, spoke about art as healing through discussion and breaking and rebuilding bowls. Members of the audience shared pictures of loved ones and stories of how their loss affected them. One person said he was glad to hear and share his story with those who truly understood the magnitude of his loss.
The master of ceremonies, Pastor June Jefferies of New Life Baptist Church of Apollo, a Hazelwood native, brought the joy of the Lord into the luncheon by requesting that the Monongahela Marsden Block Association make this an annual event.
The Monongahela Marsden Block Association is grateful for the generous support from the Forbes Fund and so proud of the community for coming together for this very special event. Special thanks to Center of Life, Hazelwood Initiative, Dylamato's Market, the Hazelwood Presbyterian Church Mission Fund, Bella Rosa Hair Salon and all of our volunteers.
Juanita Godfrey Humphrey is the President of the Monongahela Marsden Block Association and someone who is deeply rooted in the community.
*Lyrics from “I Need You to Survive,” written by David G. Frazier and performed by Hezekiah Walker