Protesters Rally Against Violence in Community

Protesters march against gun deaths and other forms of violence.

Marchers start out in the rain in the “Stop the Violence” walk in Onancock on Sunday, Dec. 29. The march was organized in response to recent incidents of gun violence and other violence on the Eastern Shore. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn —

More than three dozen people marched against violence on a rainy Sunday in Onancock.

More than three dozen people marched against violence on a rainy Sunday in Onancock.

Organized by minister Quintavion Washington, the march from near the edge of town to the gazebo downtown caught the attention of passersby, one of whom rolled down his truck window and shouted thanks to the marchers.

Washington said he is coordinating with law enforcement and school officials to find ways “to stop the violence in our young people.”

“Gun violence doesn’t start with a gun; it starts at home; it starts in their early years,” Washington said, calling the problem “a chain reaction of mental, verbal, physical, and emotional abuse.”

Deaths as a result of gun violence are “so prevalent in our community that we have gotten numb to the situation,” he said, adding, “…We have to get to the point that we stand up against this violence and say that we are not going to take this any longer — not in our streets, not in our communities, not in our households — but we are going to be united together and we are going to fight this fight together.”

Sheila Savage West speaks during the “Stop the Violence” walk in Onancock on Sunday, Dec. 29. Photo by Carol Vaughn. West’s son was murdered when he was 26 years old.

Several speakers followed Washington’s remarks, including mothers who have experienced the loss of a child as the result of violence.

Sheila Savage West spoke about her son, who was murdered at age 26.

“You expect to see certain things in their lives. You expect to see them graduate from college, which he was about to do; you expect him to one day come to you and say, ‘Mom, this is my fiancee,’ and you expect to attend their wedding, which I won’t get to do,” she said.

“There is a problem, and we have to find the answer to the problem,” West said.

Pamela Johnson spoke about her son, who was fatally shot at age 20.

“It devastated my whole family, the community, and everybody that knew him. He was a father; he left a 7-month-old daughter; he was a brother; he was an uncle; and he was loved by many,” she said, noting her son had come home from college for the summer when he got into an altercation and was shot and killed.

Protesters march along Market Street in the “Stop the Violence” walk in Onancock Sunday, Dec. 29. The march was organized in response to recent incidents of gun violence and other violence on the Eastern Shore. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

She urged listeners to speak up if they know of trouble brewing in the community.

“Talk to your kids; don’t let your kids walk around mad,” she said.

Shana Turner of Virginia Beach lost her son two years ago at age 25.

Turner founded the group Hampton Roads M. A. S. K., which stands for Mothers Against Senseless Killings, after the tragedy.

“It’s not always about gang violence. Guns are killing everyone — domestic violence, mental health, suicide, bullying. My son was leaving work, doing his normal routine” when a coworker shot him nine times, Turner said.

She urged anyone affected by violence who needs help to contact the organization, which is on facebook at hr.mask@facebook and on Instagram at The website is

“We need to stop killing one another,” she said.

Another speaker, Christina Schmitt, advisor for National Youth Week USA, is a former assistant principal at Arcadia High School.

“The Eastern Shore has a special place for me…It matters. I drove four hours to make sure I was here today,” she said.

The organization is designating June 13-19, 2020, as National Youth Week, Schmitt said. The website is

The organization also promotes, an app developed to help young people identify issues they are struggling with, including resources to help them cope.

The organization also has a telephone support line — OMI CASE Support Line 844-4NYWUSA(469-9872).

“When I left the Shore, my heart was still here, and I know there is a need in this community for youth programming,” she said, adding, “There are resources here, and you have to come together.”

Original post at Eastern Shore Post


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Interview with Lori Hoff by Chloe Bennett

Working with at-risk youth for years, Dallas resident Lori Hoff has found that while a lot of young people have valuable ideas, some lack the confidence and platform to voice them.

“We have a National Cookie Day, we have a National Butterfly Day, we have National Doughnut Day, but nothing for our youth.”

She hopes to take steps toward changing that through the first-ever National Youth Week, a weeklong event that focuses on advocating the potential of young people through discussions and workshops that will aid positive growth in communities.

“We have a National Cookie Day, we have a National Butterfly Day, we have National Doughnut Day, but nothing for our youth,” said Hoff, who is the founding CEO of Outreach Ministries Inc.

Though she works full-time with AT&T, she spends the entirety of her free time leading her nonprofit and organizing National Youth Week, which will make its debut June 13-19.

National Youth Week will make its debut June 13-19.

To Hoff, the path to actualizing an empowered youth community begins with parenting, teaching nonviolence, and encouraging young people to voice their own ideas. As Outreach Ministries and other nonprofits serve the progression of National Youth Week, Hoff hopes to see the event expand to major cities across the nation and leave a lasting mark on the development of young people’s self-esteem.

Hoff sat down with Dallas Innovates recently to talk about how she got started, and where she hopes to go with National Youth Week.

Dallas Innovates Q+A (Images: Istockphoto)What inspired you to create National Youth Week?

I was actually going to add something to National Youth Week — I thought we had one. I’ve had my nonprofit for 17 years, and I’ve worked with youth, so I thought it would be great if we could add innovation to National Youth Week. I started to do some research and found out that we didn’t have one. We have a National Cookie Day, we have a National Butterfly Day, we have National Doughnut Day, but nothing for our youth. So, I just started to drill down, and came up with the pillars, trademarked it, and [was] off and running.

Why did you think this was needed? How is it different than other youth-related efforts that have been done before?

A lot of other efforts are siloed, and so one of the things for National Youth Week … is to bring all the nonprofits together to celebrate the potential and promise of our youth. Another thing we’re addressing, that a lot of other youth organizations don’t, is a lack of parenting. We’re not just calling it out, we put together tool kits, and we’re trying to educate our parents. I encourage them to step up, and that’s a big part.

How does your work with Outreach Ministries translate to the work you’re doing with National Youth Week?

Outreach Ministries is the founding organization, so we have done counseling, and we’ve done community service. It’s kind of what the four pillars (teamwork, innovation, community service, and achievement) came from …  the work that we’ve done in the community. So, it’s really just an outreach of our founding nonprofit.

[Photo: Chase Mardis]

How can people participate locally? What are the events taking place?

We have a lot of different events taking place. We’ve partnered with North Texas Food Bank, so we have opportunities to do community service.

One of the things, a simple thing that everyone can participate in is, we have an app called CASE. Our shirts say “Stop Killing Our Youth” because homicide is one of the leading causes of death in our young people. Our app is going to help self-identify three of those causes — conflict, anger, and self-esteem.

I’m a firm believer that when youth discover that there is an issue, they want help.

We’re asking young people to state their case. A lot of times, people grow up in an angry environment. They might not know they’re angry, so this is a way for them to self-identify without someone directing it at them. And, I’m a firm believer that when youth discover that there is an issue, they want help. So, [the CASE app] will geocode to a youth organization that can help them.

They can download the app — they could do things in their own area … a park clean-up, whatever they feel — just getting out of the house and contributing to the community.

We also have the innovation toolkit, which I mentioned for the parents. We just download it, we have step-by-step instructions. [They can] basically take their phone and have a discussion about social issues, and [talk about] how can we use technology to solve it. Then, they pick the best winner, and they’re going to put a picture of the teen and the solution on their Instagram. So, we’re sharing across the country all these different solutions.

What regions around the country are you hoping to reach?

We’ve been to LA, we’ve now been to Vegas, we’ve been to Chicago, we’ve been to New Jersey, we’re going to Louisiana, we’ve been in Dallas, I haven’t gotten to Arizona yet — but Arizona. We’ve been on parenting blogs, like Mother and Me, and different parenting blogs to encourage them to encourage.

What are some major takeaways you hope people will leave with?

Parenting — strengthening parenting — that’s a huge thing. And reducing homicide. A lot of this violence is youth on youth. Our country just tends to be a crisis, and we want to slowly, but surely, just stop this. And not just be in the moment. Something is going on and everybody gathers, but let’s just continue to find ways to use technology to stop this.

Elaborate on how you will be strengthening the role of parents in at-risk youth lives.

A lot of youth have parents that maybe, dad’s not around, [and] mom’s working two jobs, so it’s not that they don’t want to be involved — they don’t have a lot of time. And they don’t realize that you can make a difference in a small amount of time.

Young people who are connected to something feel empowered.

Even if they have challenges … they have life experience, and they have things that can help create that bond. Young people who are connected to something feel empowered. And so that’s what we’re hoping to do — give them some skills and help them connect.

I’ve [written] a book, Teen Code: A Rock-Star’s Life, and it’s like a bridge. We have Rae’s Hope, which is an organization that helps young girls in South Dallas, and they use it during their sessions, after volleyball. They talked about the sections.

How did Dallas youth and being a local now contribute to the creation of the week?

Actually, I served on a lot of boards when I first came down here. It was more in an advisory capacity. Then, I actually got sick and almost died. Through that experience, and knowing the support that’s in Dallas for philanthropic avenues … it’s like this would be a great place to launch National Youth Week. Everybody was so supportive, and there’s so many different nonprofits here.

How would you like to see National Youth Week progress, and what would you like the lasting and enduring impact of the week to be?

We would just like to see it continue to grow to other states. One [place] we really want to get, which is a challenge, is New Orleans. They actually have a murder task force, but we reached out to the mayor and haven’t gotten anywhere yet. But, we’re not giving up. One of the things we want to say is, “We’re not giving up, we’re here to help.” What I keep saying to young people is, “This is your week. We established it, but we want to see you take it and run with it.”

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Parenting Pointers: Say NO to the Bully

Bullying has taken on a whole new meaning in the past decade and the conditions have changed.  The weapon isn’t a fist or a bat it is the cold heart and unrelenting mouth. The phrase sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me – no they actually hurt you so deeply – they can kill. Point in case, a young girl in Texas had peers create fake profiles set up in her name on dating sites giving graphic descriptions of her name “for a good time”.  The young girl was bombarded with so many inappropriate calls and emails to the point where she took her own life.  These peers thought this was a good “prank” – no this was cyber bullying.
Young people don’t have the fortitude to deal with this. Bullying used to stop at the park or after school now it follows you home it’s in your computer/phone and won’t leave you alone. The demographic of the audience has changed it used to be one on one and now it is open for the public.  Parents and caregivers need more reminders and tools to help them combat.
Here are some helpful tips to combat cyber-bullying:
1.     Always talk to your youth about the importance of knowing who he/she is and talk about the perils of social media including bully examples
2.     Teach them how damaging “made up” stories or distorting the truth can be. This is not a minor “distortion’ and can get out of hand very quickly.
3.     Let them know everything they see on TV and social media isn’t real. A lot of young people believe everything they see to be real.
4.     As parents/caregivers we need to make sure we know what our children are exposed to. Sit down and watch the TV show they are watching with them and ask questions about the topics discussed in the shows to see the perspective of your child.
5.     Know your child’s social media group: look at their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts on a regular basis. You will meet resistance but who is paying for their phone/computer access? In most cases not your child.
6.     Know who your child is “hanging out with” after school and pay attention to changes in your child’s appearance, attitude and disposition.
7.     Teach them how to stand tall in face of adversity by listening closely to what they are saying and seek help from authorities at school or in the community if you feel threatened in any way.
8.     Remember bullying happens in all socioeconomics and demographics – it is not the under-privileged – it can happen to anyone.
I have raised at-risk youth in my home for over 15 years and when we talk a lot.  We talk about how telling lies can be just as harmful as hitting someone with a baseball bat. The visual works.   I teach the youth to listen to what their peers are saying about each other (not just them) because “out of your mouth the heart speaks” – if someone is unkind chances are they can be the same to you.  Remember, a bully is only as powerful as you let him/her be.
Lori Hoff is the CEO and founder of OMI (Outreach Ministries Inc) a nonprofit helping at risk youth OMI is leading the first National Youth Week for across the US on June 13th. Hoff also just released: and author of Teen Code: A Rock-Star’s Life. Hoff  was the Board chair for Big Brothers Big Sisters and established a food pantry for the working poor in Middlesex County.  She also worked with the State of NJ as a therapist for at-risk youth helping them to stay in school and become productive members of society. Along with her nonprofit work she is also a full-time Manager in the Technology And Engineering space for AT&T in Dallas, Texas and was the  National Mentoring officer for Women of AT&T for 4 years.  A Native of Washington, NJ, Hoff graduated from Calvary Theological with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ministry, and earned a Masters in Child and Adolescent Therapy from Cornerstone University.
Connect with Hoff on: Facebook,, Instagram,  Twitter

Website: Books will be available at all major bookstores and through Amazon.


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