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Revitalizing a Once Busy Commercial Area in Illinois

An End Violence mural on the side of a building in Illinois

After the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, concerned citizens in McLean County, Illinois started a Moms Demand Action group. That same year, their city experienced an unprecedented increase in gun violence. “We had no idea that there would be an unprecedented number of fatalities, 13 in that year, and an untold number of survivors,” Karen Irvin, the Local Group Co-Lead for the Moms Demand Action group in McLean County, said. 

“As a retired teacher I was moved to get involved to do SOMETHING. Forming a local group here in McLean County was very doable with the amazing support of the Illinois Chapter of Moms Demand Action, and the access to all of the data and research and structure provided by Everytown,” Karen expressed. “Our group has been working here and making a difference since March of 2018. Volunteers in our group have learned so much about the gun violence epidemic, not just mass shootings but about daily gun violence and the impacts on all communities.”

Since then, the Moms Demand Action group has been taking meaningful action and building relationships with other organizations making an impact in their community. While Moms Demand Action raises awareness about all forms of gun violence, their mission involves impactful collaboration with other organizations who are also working to change their city for the better.

“When we reach out to our local domestic violence shelters, our local food banks, our schools, our churches, our local branch of NAACP, or LGBTQ+ rights groups, and so many more places, and we offer to help them with THEIR mission, we know that we become relevant as a partner to them,” Karen shared. “We know the work we do advancing legislative work, promoting education about safe gun storage, elevating survivor voices, and giving a platform to share survivor stories, makes us unique as a group, we see ourselves as part of a larger community working in our own unique ways to end gun violence.”

Among those collaborations is with West Market Street Council, an organization working to redevelop a key commercial block in their city. With the support of an Everytown for Gun Safety Community Safety Fund grant for a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) project, they will be breathing new life into the commercial corridor to change the built environment of the area and increase community safety. 

“The mission of West Market Street Council is to redevelop the historic commercial block of W. Market St at Howard St., restoring it to its former glory as The Gateway to Bloomington, including a garden to grocery project to end the food desert,” Laurie Bell, Volunteer Project Coordinator for West Market Street Council, shared. “Our CPTED project will contribute planters, plants, benches, and solar lighting as the first physical improvements to the development project at the corner.”

With support from Local Initiatives Support Corps, who have provided all grantees technical assistance and training, West Market Street Counsel deepened its efforts to promote community resiliency and create permanent changes in an area disproportionately affected by gun violence. 

During Wear Orange in 2022, a community block party and Pop-Up Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) Center tent will be set up to open up conversations about gun violence in the community and provide resources to the community. 

“Dameca Kirkwood and Arthur Haynes with West Market Street Council are ready to launch the Pop-Up VIP project to start to transform the conversation on gun violence in our community by changing a blighted space along West Market Street into a place where young people, families, and residents of all ages can celebrate summer, prepare for back to school, and enjoy an open environment where they can witness their community stepping up to create positive space out of a stretch of pavement that has been neglected,” Karen said. 

By providing resources to the community and revitalizing this once busy block, West Market Street Council is dedicated to ending the cycle of gun violence.

“The only way to intervene in violence is with community,” Laurie expressed. 

Wear Orange

During National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend, we join together to demand a future free from gun violence once and for all.

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