Recently, Northern Children’s Services, Widener University and the City of Chester hosted a Wellness & Resiliency Symposium to promote hope for the community. The three-day event featured nine presenters speaking about a variety of topics.
Speakers included Kenneth Glass, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Seeley, director of Development at Wes Health Care, who spoke about Trauma Resiliency and Workforce Development, followed by a presentation by Northern Children’s Services Clinical Director Natalie Bilynsky, who talked about Trauma and Impact on Children and their Families.
Lisa Dennis, a Chester native involved with the church and community for over 30 years and now serves as chaplain in the Chester Police Chaplains Corps, spoke about Addressing Bereavement. Dennis, also a driving force in the Chester REAL Change initiative, said grief has been all-too-common and real in Chester.
“You don’t get over it but you will get through it,” Dennis assured the crowd of people who told their own emotional stories and what led them to attend her presentation.
Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder and executive director of the Philadelphia-based Mothers in Charge, Inc, (MIC) also discussed grief and loss. In her presentation, Faces of Courage: Grief and Loss, Speight opened the floor to other mothers, like herself, who experienced the tragedy of having their child murdered. Their stories often left the audience in tears.
“One day I said, ‘I refuse to let that boy (who killed my son) take my soul’,” MIC member Stephanie Mobley said. Her only son was killed in 2007. “I will be the voice of John John as long as I can.”
In 2001, Speight’s son, Khaaliq Jabbar Johnson, was murdered over a parking spot dispute. Out of despair, Speight, along with other grieving mothers, started the non-profit organization and have been working for years to make a difference in torn apart by violence, including Chester and Philadelphia.
“Violence is not something we should accept as a way of life,” Speight said. “We got to find a way to get involved. We can make a difference.”
Other presentations included Tiffany Lane, Ph.D. and Janet S. Riley Ford, MSW, LSW, who talked about The Importance of Building Resiliency and Encouraging Healthy Development among Youth Participants and Dr. Christina Kemp, who focused on Mental Health in the African American Community.
Jamee Nowell Smith, another Chester native who runs the Chester Senior Center, offered various resources available to help people age and still be independent and happy. Also presented was Dr. Sanjay R. Nath, associate dean and director of Widener University’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology, who discussed different options for Accessing Mental Health Care.
Gus Keirans, MA, LMFT, the division director of Child Welfare Services, and the last presenter, spoke about Co-Parenting and the Importance of Father Involvement.