Chester Comes Together to Promote Hope for the Community

On May 27th through May 29th,  Northern Children’s Services, Widener University and the City of Chester came together to host a Wellness & Resiliency Symposium, which was aimed to promote hope for the Chester community. On Friday, June 6th, they were honored and recognized for the great work they do for the community at the Closing Ceremony.  Those in attendance at this event who honored the participants included Mayor John Linder and Councilman William A. Jacobs, who stated at the Closing Ceremony:

“We have a lot of traumatic events that take place in this this city almost daily- things like shooting and such, and a lot of our children are exposed to that. A lot of them don’t have access to health care agencies and that sort of thing. I think this Symposium will probably benefit the city of Chester in a lot of ways that we’re not even looking at right now.”


Three Days Promoting Hope, Health and Happiness

The 3-day symposium consisted of 9 presenters – all of which catered to a topic  of their expertise.  Opening day of the symposium kicked off at Chester City Hall in the Community Room with Dr. Kenneth Glass, PhD 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.”

The final presentation on Tuesday was orchestrated by Lisa Dennis, MS, a native of Chester, PA, who has been involved with the church and community for over 30 years and now serves as Police Chaplain in the Chester Police Chaplains Corp, Board Member for Law Enforcement Chaplains of Delaware County, member of the International Conference of Police Chaplains, minister at her local church and Community Organizer and Facilitator of Chester R.E.A.L Change.  Her presentation, “Addressing Bereavement,” was geared towards helping people grieve over loss, specifically in the Chester Community.

“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 this moving presentation.

Dorothy Johnson-Speight, the Founder and Executive Director of Mothers in Charge, Inc, also discussed grief and loss on the second day of the symposium at the beautiful Lathem Hall at Widener University.  In her presentation, Faces of Courage: Grief and Loss,” Speight opened the floor to other mothers, like herself, who experienced the unthinkable tragedy of having their child murdered in a senseless act of violence.   Their stories left the audience in tears and speechless.

“One day I said I refuse to let that boy (who killed my son) take my soul,” Stephanie Mobley of MIC said, whose only son was gunned down and 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.  In a state of despair, Speight, alongside other grieving mothers, started the non-profit organization,  Mothers In Charge, Inc.  Together, they gathered the strength and courage inside of themselves to truly make a difference in the communities that were being 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.”

And that it did.  Dorothy Johnson-Speight, along with the other women of Mothers in Charge, has given many mothers of the community the hope they needed to get back on their feet after suffering from the inconceivable pain of losing a child to violence. To learn more about Mothers in Charge and the Faces of Courage book,

Other presentations of that day included Tiffany Lane, PhD 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, PsyD, who focused on “Mental Health in the African American Community.”

The third and final day of the symposium was again held at the breathtaking Lathem Hall on Widener University’s campus and was filled to the brim with positivity and helpful knowledge from start to finish.

Starting off the day was Jamee Nowell Smith, another native of Chester, whose presentation “Aging Well-Yes You Can,” included discussions about the different resources available to help people age and still be independent and happy.  The second presentation was led by Dr. Sanjay R. Nath, the Associate Dean and Director of Widener University’s Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology, who discussed the different options for “Accessing Mental Health Care.”   Gus Keirans, MA, LMFT, the Division Director of Child Welfare Services, was the very last presenter of the symposium and gave a very insightful presentation into “Co-Parenting and the Importance of Father Involvement.”

Overall, the first ever 3-Day Chester Wellness & Resiliency Symposium was a huge success and the plan for next year has already began.  This Friday, many influential leaders of the community will gather, including Mayor John Linder, Tracey Lavallias, CEO and President of Northern Children’s Services, and other Chester Councilman, to offer appreciation and recognition to the individuals who have made a significant difference in the community with their work and advocacy for positive change.

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To view additional photos of the 3-Day Chester Wellness & Resiliency Symposium, click this link.

To view photos of the Chester Symposium Closing Ceremony, please click here.


Northern Children's Services