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5 area groups receive $16,000 grants to help St. Louisans heal from gun violence

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David Pole
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Anthony Taylor from Amp Connects speaks during the Black Healers Collective and the T/BRIC healing circle event at Tower Grove Park on Oct. 29. Both organizations are recipients of the St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund crisis response grant, which awarded funding to five organizations to help the community heal from the recent shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School.

The St. Louis Regional Racial Healing + Justice Fund awarded $16,000 grants to five St. Louis-area organizations to help students and the community recover from the school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School and Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience.

The fund’s community governance board issued crisis response grants to the T/Bullet Related Injury Clinic, Black Healers Collective, UnGUN Institute, Freedom Community Center and the St. Louis Community Health Worker Coalition. The money will cover existing programs and overhead costs and allow the organizations to help students and others heal from trauma.

Young people need outlets where they can be heard and where people will listen to them, said Darian Wigfall, a member of the community governance board.

“I think we are going to see, at the very least, more youth in St. Louis, be positively impacted and have a positive outlook for their future,” Wigfall said. “But then that leads towards them being adults that have that same mentality.”

The Deaconess Foundation, Missouri Foundation for Health and Forward Through Ferguson established the fund in 2020 to invest in organizations that will help achieve racial equity for people of color with resources for healing and justice.

The grants were awarded to organizations led by people of color. The board chose the five grant recipients because of their community involvement and the work the groups put into schools to help heal from traumatic experiences, Wigfall said.

Wigfall hopes the funding will allow people to become more familiar with the organizations.

It takes time to heal from the trauma of gun violence, said Dr. LJ Punch, founder of the T/Bullet Related Injury Clinic.

“Unfortunately, in St. Louis, bullet-related injury is endemic,” Punch, a trauma surgeon, said. “Sometimes what happens is you have an event like this, everybody sees it, everybody knows that it happened on this date, it was horrible. But it brings up all the other traumas that you didn't get the chance to fully heal.”

Punch’s organizations help people holistically and physically heal from the trauma of gun violence and gun injuries. The grant money will allow the organizations to help school leaders assist students who suffer from gun-related injuries and those who are traumatized by their experience that day return to school.

CVPA students want to get back to some form of normalcy and learn ways to manage trauma from their experience, he said.

“Our hope is for a healing that comes from the ground up, that transcends, and then maybe having a healed community,” Punch said.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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