Posts Tagged ‘elorza’

The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence is an outstanding Providence nonprofit that takes a holistic approach to ending violence in poor communities.

On Thursday, I went to an open house and barbecue organized by the students in the Institute’s work program, and was mightily impressed. I shook hands with Mayor Jorge Elorza and chatted at some length with Chief of Police Hugh Clements and the Institute’s executive director, Teny Gross. Not to mention the retired priest who was a founding member, the youth themselves, and the dedicated staff. I heard some pretty inspiring stories!

The young organizers provided a tour of their headquarters, a lovely converted convent on Oxford St.

It was a great event. But here is something sad. In the five years since I visited the Institute’s old quarters, the vagaries of funding sources have forced cutbacks. They no longer have 17 streetworkers turning youth from violence toward work and better lives. They can afford only four. It seems a shame when the need is still significant.

The Institute is advertising for a development director, and they sure need a way to get more support. A big endowment to protect the work from shifts in the winds would be ideal. Read more here.

By the way, Teny Gross has been called to teach nonviolence techniques around the nation and world. He has received many acknowledgments for his success. An unusual honor this month gave him one of his proudest moments. It relates to a George Washington letter about religious tolerance.

“225 years ago, George Washington wrote a letter ‘To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,’ which is now known as the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. To mark the historic importance of the letter, the congregation and the Touro Synagogue Foundation conduct an annual ‘Letter Reading,’ around the time that the letter was sent. The setting is the beautifully restored Touro Synagogue, built in 1763.

“The letter was only four paragraphs long, but they were four powerful and significant paragraphs and they are regarded as critical in the history of the Jewish people in the Colonial United States. ┬áThe letter reading evolved into today’s two hour event filled with greetings from dignitaries, announcements of scholarships and an award to Teny Gross, leader in the Institute for the Study of the Practice of Nonviolence.”

Goes to show that teaching nonviolence can spread out in many unexpected ripples.

Read the details here.

Photo: Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence

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Good things continue to happen in the West End of Providence, thanks in large part to the vision and community responsiveness of West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) under the direction of Sharon Conard-Wells.

Tuesday, WEHDC held a reception to celebrate past accomplishments and the new mixed-income housing development they are about to build. The mayor came. Community members came. Many of Rhode Island’s movers and shakers came. I came.

It was impressive to see how WEHDC’s projects have flourished when you consider that 10 years ago, the nonprofit was tackling the cleanup of a nearby industrial site and hoping to turned the blighted Rau Fastener factory into beautiful mixed-income housing — keeping their fingers crossed that the market would respond.

The market sure did respond, and now WEHDC is starting the second phase. At the same time, it continues community work of many kinds. Antoine started out doing lead abatement and now works with young people in the neighborhood. Adeline works with the community farm and the Sankofa World Market. Rosa and Debra do housing counseling and lending. Rachel manages WEHDC’s many partnerships and is always looking for more.

The energy and optimism are tangible, and it was good to see the recognition the nonprofit is getting from people in a position to ensure that the good work keeps going. The current wish list includes new laptops and web design work (in case you know anyone interested in offering help that is sure to be used wisely). Check out WEHDC here.

Photo: Sankofa Initiative

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