BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Dr. Jill Flansburg, senior grants and compliance manager for Community Action Stops Abuse, Inc. (CASA), said she believes part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s legacy will always be his belief in bringing people together and working to empower the less fortunate.
So when employees at CASA came together to decide on an MLK Day of Service project, it was only natural to choose an initiative that would not only allow for collaboration with another nonprofit but would also bring awareness to a group that often suffers in silence.
CASA, the official domestic violence center for southern Pinellas County, applied for an MLK Day of Service grant in collaboration with Creative Clay, a non-profit committed to helping people with disabilities lead full and inclusive lives through access to the arts.
Together, the group will host Jewelry of Hope, an initiative that will give a voice to victims of domestic violence and bring greater public awareness to the issue.
Flansburg said while CASA and Creative Clay have partnered in the past, Jewelry of Hope is a new initiative. The two organizations believed the project would be a true symbol of Dr. King’s belief in the importance of speaking out against injustice.
“Dr. King said ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ We believe that it is time to stop being silent about domestic violence and make the public aware of the problem and interventions so we can work towards a solution,” she said.
The project begins before MLK Day with domestic violence survivors, their family and friends and volunteers making 800 clay beads of various sizes, colors and shapes. Staffers and volunteers from CASA and Creative Clay will facilitate the bead-making sessions, ensuring they are properly baked and ready for use.
With the MLK Day of Service grant the group received, they were able to buy necessary supplies to get the project started. The award, provided by the Florida Legislature and sponsored by St. Petersburg College, provides funding to various groups for projects that encourage the community to choose service on the holiday instead of just taking the day off.
“We would not have been able to provide the beads or jewelry making supplies without the grant,” Flansburg said.
During the third annual MLK Dream Big Family Fun Day at Tropicana Field on Monday, Jan. 21, attendees can stop by and make a necklace or bracelet with the beads for a domestic violence survivor. Each piece of jewelry will include the beads strung on a colorful hemp cord with a metal tag that has an inspiring word or symbol. After they have made a piece of jewelry for a survivor, they can take a moment and make a piece of jewelry for themselves.
While community members are making the pieces, CASA representatives will provide information about domestic abuse and where people can go for help.
Flansburg said she hopes having the jewelry pieces to take home will serve as a reminder of the day and the importance of the services CASA provides for domestic violence victims.
“We are all so busy in our individual lives it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same opportunities and advantages,” she said. “Working toward the greater good to elevate people in need makes us all better and the community stronger.”