Earlier this month we talked with Darren Seals, Program Manager of Cure Violence Wells Goodfellow/Hamilton Heightssite, who shared some examples of early success stories from CVG’s new site in St. Louis. CVG works in some of the neighborhoods in St. Louis with the highest rates of gun violence. Darren and his team have been working tirelessly to support the community and protect people from both violence and COVID. Darren recounted a story where one family was tragically affected by violence and both the father and son had been killed. Darren and his team knew that the rest of the family was at higher risk for violence so they spent time with a 14 year old family member who was talking about seeking revenge. By staying with the boy and talking to him, the St. Louis team was able to prevent him from seeking retaliation and getting caught up in a cycle of violence. The boy now comes around to one of the St. Louis sites every day and the team is still working to prevent him from turning to violence.
Darren’s team was also able to help cool down a situation where a young man had a gun. His mother specifically reached out to the Cure Violence team to ask for their help. Darren’s team visited with the young man and was able to help de-escalate the still-tense situation. They mediated the conflict and kept things cool. Darren emphasized that they work with individuals to understand where the desire to use violence is coming from and figure out how to prevent them from turning to violence. Darren and his team still check up on the son every day and say he’s continuing to get better. As evidenced by the above examples, CVG’s local partner organization works hard not only to stop violence before it happens but also to prevent future instances violence after an incident has occurred.
Darren’s team has also been involved in COVID prevention activities in their neighborhoods. This has included passing out public education materials to educate the community on how to stay safe during the pandemic and distributing masks to community members. During the holiday season, Darren passed out toys to children through the church youth center. He dressed up as Santa Clause and got the companies to match donations. They received $30,000 worth of toys that were then given out to children in the neighborhood. The event helped bring the community together and connect workers with members. It also helped the team continue to build bonds with the community and establish additional relationships and contacts that will be helpful in their future work.