Enlisting everyone to end domestic violence

“Violence begets violence.” Martin Luther King Jr. offered this message to the world in 1958, while also acting as a living example of how to stop the cycle of violence. He demonstrated how one person can create ripples of peaceful change.
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, marked in October, one local agency wants to send a message that everyone can reduce violence through small actions. 
From its Homewood administrative office, South Suburban Family Shelter is planning a slate of activities for the month under the theme “Be the Change,” hoping to connect community members with little ways they can work toward a violence-free world.
“We created a committee this year to make our DV Awareness Month activities a more broad and organized effort,” said Brittany Williams, SSFS events and volunteer manager.
“Next year is our 40th anniversary as a nonprofit helping those impacted by domestic violence. We want to make this community aware of our services and of domestic violence as a whole-community issue. We want for no one to get through the month of October without hearing about SSFS,” she said. 
To kick off the month, SSFS staff and volunteers will interact with visitors at Homewood Fall Fest on Sept. 28, where they will sell light bulbs that shine purple -- the color recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 
These are to be placed in exterior light fixtures to show support for domestic violence awareness. The Village of Homewood already bought bulbs to display outside village hall, Williams said, and Homewood Science Center is sponsoring a simple circuit kit for kids to build their own bulb. 
A few days later, SSFS hosts its new Be the Change Celebration on Oct. 1 in Irwin Park, an event that replaces the organization’s longstanding candlelight vigil. The hourlong event starts at 6 p.m. and features speaker Gina Bell, who will discuss empowerment and action. A moment of silence will recognize those who lost their lives due to domestic violence.
“Melody Mart will be ‘playing a part’ in being the change -- pun intended,” Williams said. Instructors and students of the music school will open and close the event with ukulele music and interact with visitors.
Attendees also can learn about SSFS’s 31 Days of Change Challenge, an initiative to engage people in 31 ways they can make a positive difference in the world. Working toward an end to domestic violence goes hand-in-hand with fighting all forms of violence, Williams said.
“We’re in a rough state of our world and we know that people want to help,” she said. “All forms of violence are incredibly intertwined.”
On Oct. 10, Homewood Science Center will devote its Spotlight On series to the Science of Healing from 6 to 8 p.m. The free program features a presentation by SSFS Executive Director Jennifer Gabrenya, who will discuss how the human brain reacts to trauma. 
Representatives from Cancer Support Center will discuss art therapy and Homewood Science Center will display human brain samples. Opening the program will be Liz Smith of Serendipity Yoga in Homewood, who is also donating the proceeds of her Oct. 12 yoga classes to SSFS. 
Additionally, Bottle and Bottega in Homewood hosts a painting party to support SSFS on Oct. 24 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. 
Throughout October, SSFS outreach staff will present Domestic Violence 101 programs at South Suburban College and Matteson Library, along with other locations. Businesses and organizations can request this free community education program for their own institution during October and any time throughout the year, Williams said. 
In addition to all the events, Williams said people should look for touches of purple around Homewood throughout the month. It’s all part of working to call attention to the issue and gather more allies in the fight against domestic violence.
“We believe change is possible for everyone, not just those who have experienced harm, but those that have done harm and those that can help,” Williams said. “All those small acts of change will get us to an end of violence one day.”

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