Though the timing was merely coincidental, it seemed extra harsh for Governor Deval Patrick to slash funding for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute right before Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month, which runs from November 20 to December 20, in recognition of how difficult approaching holidays are for those with slain friends and family members. But even though the Fields Corner nonprofit has been forced to confront its fiscal fate, there's no doubt that public response to the institute's money crunch has brought awareness to its mission at last.
"It's amazing that even in these difficult times, and even with the economy being in jeopardy and the holidays coming at the same time, that the community still decided to speak up and recognize that it was worth keeping us around," says Director of Operations Milton Jones, who lost his son in 1993. Jones has counseled other survivors at the institute since it was founded one year later by Clementina Chery, whose own son, Louis D. Brown, was murdered 15 years ago this Saturday. "When people decide they don't need us around here anymore, then they'll let us know, but for now that doesn't seem to be the case."
Since the institute lost about $75,000 (of its $257,000 annual budget) in the Commonwealth's $1 billion emergency cut this past October, peace advocates have wrestled up more than $90,000 in charity. Jones says that while volunteers and organizers are working hard, the generosity is mostly an acknowledgment of how many families — from Dorchester to Framingham to Brockton — Chery and her colleagues have graciously consoled. Some philanthropy came from peace foundations, while one anonymous donor gave $10,000 and another unnamed savior gave twice that much. A December 2 fundraiser at the Blarney Stone in Dorchester — thrown by H. Levenbaum Real Estate and other local businesses — brought in an additional $6000, and a concert featuring local music acts, food, and dancing at the First Parish Church scheduled for this Saturday is further expected to save the day.
"We didn't find out that we lost the money right away," says Jones. "Someone gave us a call and asked how things were, and when [Chery] said 'Fine,' they broke it to us what happened. Still, even though we're not a church, we are grounded in spirituality, and we believe that if you walk by faith and not by sight, then you're not believing the hype. Basically, from the moment the news came, we weren't going to allow this to happen. We were going to step up and do whatever we needed to do to stay open."
The fundraising 15-year-anniversary commemoration of Louis D. Brown's death will take place on Saturday, December 20, at 5 pm, at the First Parish Church, 10 Parish Street, in Dorchester. Suggested donation is $20. Call 617.825.1917 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail donations directly to the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, 1452 Dorchester Avenue, 2nd floor, Dorchester, MA 02122.