Peace4Tarpon’s strength, says Saenger, has always been its commitment to grass-roots engagement and organic growth. But a group powered largely by volunteers also must weather the ebb and surge of people’s availability and interest.
And yet, there are signs that the initiative is making a difference in this town of 23,000. In October, new mayor Chris Alahouzos signed the Peace4Tarpon memorandum of understanding, a commitment to attend the group’s monthly meetings, become more informed and practice “trauma sensitivity among my friends, family and co-workers.”
Peace4Tarpon leaders have connected not only with leaders in other MARC communities but also with those who have launched similar “Peace4” initiatives.
“Every week, there are more communities interested in this,” Saenger says. “I’d like to use that energy for people to be able to launch their own initiatives so we can influence policy and lawmakers.”
Robbin Sotelo Redd, Executive Director of the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority and the Local Community Housing Corporation and Vice-Chair of the Peace4Tarpon Board of Directors, likes to tell the story of the preemie hats. A retired woman in the community saw a poster in the library for Peace4Tarpon and began attending the group’s meetings. She realized that she had suffered trauma, beginning with her premature birth, and she wanted to heal that wound. So she knitted 64 preemie hats, one for each year of her life, and delivered them to the local hospital’s NICU.
“What’s unique about Peace4Tarpon is that people just step up and take ownership,” Redd said. “It’s an organic, grass-roots group of people that is ever-growing.”
That group flourished from an unlikely seed—an artist-turned-public-official, former Vice Mayor Robin Saenger, who began exploring the impact of violence in people’s lives and ended up perusing the ACE Study.
The Health Federation of Philadelphia serves as a keystone supporting a network of Community Health Centers as well as the broader base of public and private-sector organizations that deliver health and human services to vulnerable populations.