“In the 45 years that I have been involved in community organizing, S.O.S. is the most rewarding and uplifting experience. In the two years that I have been involved we’ve seen how much S.O.S. has improved the community. This is a program about everybody, but this program is particularly giving the young people the knowledge to run this neighborhood. The young people will be able to do this because of the tremendous job of the foot soldiers, the Violence Interrupters and Outreach Workers who are making the neighborhood safer. I thank them every day.”
– Willard Hawkins, S.O.S. Volunteer 

Dear supporters of C.H.C.M.C.,

We are mourning the loss of the children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut. As we grieve for them, we also hold close in our hearts the victims of gun violence here in Brooklyn.  We feel so thankful for your support and are approaching our work with more vigor and urgency. As we have said at every one of the community rallies we have held this year, “Enough is enough. The time to act is now. 

We’ve accomplished much this year, but as always we have much more to do. Here are a few highlights from 2012.         

  • Save Our Street Crown Heights (S.O.S.) Violence Interrupters and Outreach Workers mediated 110 conflicts. Each of those conflicts could have escalated into an incident in which someone might have been seriously hurt or killed. Violence Interrupters use their street savviness, their training, and their relationships to intervene and prevent conflict escalation. As Violence Interrupter Larry Holland puts it, “Sometimes we just have to pump their brakes a little bit.”
  • As part of our effort to foster relationships among neighbors, highlight the talents of neighborhood residents, and encourage community participation in the fight against gun violence, we organized over twenty events involving over 1,000 people, including two block parties (photos), two film nights, a talent show (photos), a community march, a YO S.O.S. flash mob (photos) and an art showcase (photos). None of these events would have been possible without our highly dedicated and active group of volunteers who keep the work going and inspire the staff daily.
  • We launched Make It Happen!, a unique, groundbreaking program that serves young men of color who have experienced violence, a population long ignored by traditional victim services providers. I’m extremely proud of the work we’re doing here. MIH! is not only bringing much needed services to a population in need, but it is also changing a fundamental paradigm—both within the culture of the people it works with and within
    victim services institutions.
  • We launched the S.O.S. Clergy Action Network (C.A.N.), bringing together more than 130 local clergy members to support Save Our Streets Crown Heights and work for non-violence in their communities. In 2013 we plan to publish a book about some of our C.A.N. members and their efforts to end the culture of violence among their congregations.
  • Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets (YO S.O.S.), the youth mobilization arm of S.O.S., prepares teens to be community organizers, effective messengers, and problem solvers in the movement against urban gun violence. In 2012, YO S.O.S. completed its inaugural year and launched a second, bigger program for the 2012-13 school year. Twenty-one youths graduated from the program in the spring, and 35 new organizers joined this fall. In 2013, youth organizers will spread the message of non-violence and take over our annual Arts to End Violence contest and showcase. We’re excited to see the results!
  • Our neighbor services program served over 700 walk-in clients with job searches, resume assistance, housing help, health-care screenings, immigration help, and access to services across the community. This year we also created a community resource directory focusing on Crown Heights. The directory is available both digitally and in hard copy for those who have limited computer access.

Of course, the work we do is never done, and we have already started on our plans to make Crown Heights safer and healthier in 2013. Perhaps our most exciting new venture for 2013 is our new Hospital Responder program. Launched in partnership with Kings County Hospital’s Emergency Department, this initiative allows Center staff to work directly with shooting victims, their friends, and their family members at the hospital; first responders will intervene to try to prevent retaliation and disrupt the cycle of violence before it escalates.

Supporters like you are instrumental in our campaign to end gun violence and in making Crown Heights safer for all residents. We’re very proud to count so many people throughout New York City as our friends, and we very much hope that you’ll continue to support our work—in whatever way you can. Please follow our progress on our blog,Twitter, and Facebook, please refer people to our programs, come volunteer, or, best of all, come to our events!

If you can make a financial contribution, checks can be made out to our parent organization, the Fund for the City of New York, and mailed to the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center at 256 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11213. Or you can donate online by clicking this link and selecting “Crown Heights Mediation Center” in the program designation dropdown menu. 

Thank you, again, for your cont
inued support. We couldn’t do it without you.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

In peace,

Amy Ellenbogen and the rest of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center Staff