BY JOYCE NANETTE JOHNSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The cry for help against domestic violence crosses all socio-economic, gender, age and racial lines. The non-profit organization Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA), located at 1011 1st Ave. N, provides resources that aid victims in breaking the vicious cycle of abuse.
CASA will be utilizing their MLK Day of Service award to assemble Peace Baskets to greet new participants when they come to the facility for the first time seeking assistance.
According to Lola Blevins, outreach lead advocate for CASA, the Peace Baskets will be filled with several items that though simple in nature are a way for the victims to gain a moment of peace and encouragement while experiencing dangerous, unpredictable turmoil in their lives.
“There will be a journal inside,” Blevins explained. “Because it helps one to discover they have a voice.”
Blevins explained that when people are abused they lose their voice and this will put them on a path to finding it.
“The journal does not have to be written, they can draw pictures, colors, clip things out of a magazine, anything to show how they feel. There will also be a square mirror that will have words of encouragement on it.”
Blevins hopes that when they look at their reflections and the decoupage words “I got this” on the frame, it will be an empowering experience for them.
“I want them to know they already have the power within,” she said.
Also inside the peace baskets will be a mug, again with words of encouragement, and the basket will be filled with samples of herbal teas and scented votive candles, inviting a moment of relaxation.
“This is so they understand they have time for themselves,” stated Blevins. “It is two to three minutes of peace. It’s a non-expensive way to have peace in your life.”
Current CASA support group participants will write messages of encouragement and place them in the baskets. Members of the organization feel this will give them an opportunity to offer empowerment and encouragement to others on the same journey as they are.
The outside of the baskets will be decorated by Creative Clay of St. Petersburg and the students at Shorecrest Preparatory School. Volunteer Coordinator Kelly Steel was approached by Shorecrest for volunteer opportunities, and she knew this project would be a perfect fit.
The students and the Creative Clay team are now in the process decorating and painting: “May your days be full of promise and your nights full of peace” on the baskets. On the actual Day of Service, Creative Clay, Shorecrest students and CASA employees and volunteers will assemble them at the CASA’s administration office.
The Peace Basket project is certainly a group effort. Grants and Compliance Coordinator Sue Nichols secured the grant, staffer Kris Nowland purchased the items and outreach advocates collected all of the inspirational notes from the support group participants to place in the baskets.
CASA’s headquarters is not a residential center, but it offers many valuable services to the community, including referrals to emergency shelters, counseling, child protection and elder abuse advocacy, support groups and job coaching.
From 2015-16, CASA handled 5,558 hotline calls of which 4,767 were classified as a crisis. They served 468 adults and children and gave out 15,160 referrals. Unfortunately, they had to turn away 2,425 people due to lack of space at their shelters.
Blevins feels that the Peace Baskets are a true reflection of the thoughts and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“He had a dream where everybody came together,” she reflected. “He wanted to bring the community together to live in peace, work together and revitalize the neighborhoods to live quality lives.”
Please send your MLK Day of Service project photos to firstname.lastname@example.org by Jan. 17.