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For Good

Major grant to help Tarpon Springs program create solutions to adverse childhood experiences

Robin Saegner wants the world to be a better and safer place. Because she’s just one person, she’s concentrating on bringing this dream to reality in her own backyard in Tarpon Springs.

In 2010, she founded the Peace4Tarpon Informed Community Initiative with the ambitious mission of creating a more peaceful and thriving Tarpon Springs. Saegner envisions a community where all residents are safe healthy, educated, respected and valued.

What makes this initiative unique is that it uses a whole community, holistic approach to solving challenging issues by seeking to understand and address root causes, instead of symptoms. Saegner’s vision just got a big endorsement – and financial boost.

Peace4Tarpon was selected as one of 14 programs in the United States – and the only one in Florida – to get a grant to support and expand its innovative work to address childhood adversity. It will receive nearly $300,000 over a two-year period from the Health Federation of Philadelphia with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.

With this grant, Peace4Tarpon joins the other 13 programs in a collaborative project called Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC). They will share best practices, try new approaches and become models for other communities in implementing effective solutions for combatting adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs.

“The MARC project will give us a fantastic opportunity to take our work of building a peaceful, healthy and resilient community to the next level,” says Saegner, former Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs. “Our goal is to reduce the number of ACEs and build resiliency, which will greatly increase their chances of leading happier, healthier and more successful lives.”

Some of the areas she and other project directors will target are child neglect, abuse and abandonment, and how to come up with solutions to prevent them. Studies have shown that these traumatic events can have lifelong impacts on children’s health and behavior, and affect the communities they live in.

Saegner says she sees this as the “public health issue of our time.”

“We see how unaddressed trauma plays out every day from the most personal level to national news. It is at the root of both physical and emotional challenges,” she says. “The current epidemic of trauma can be slowed and eventually reversed if we address it through a unified purpose and response. This is what fuels my commitment to this cause.”

Tarpon4Peace and the other programs selected to be part of the MARC initiative got a strong endorsement for the work they are doing by a spokesperson for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Martha B. Davis called them “living laboratories that can teach all of us” what it takes to transform cycles of trauma into a culture of health.

“Anyone who is interested in strengthening the resilience of their community should pay attention to what these communities are doing,” Davis says.

Other recipients include: Alaska Resilience Initiative; The HEARTS Initiative for ACE Response in Albany, N.Y.; Vital Village Community Engagement Network in Boston; Buncombe County (North Carolina) ACEs Collaborative; Creating Sanctuary in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon; Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative; Trauma Matters in Kansas City, Mo.; Elevate Montana; Philadelphia ACE Task Force; San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team & Building Health Communities Central Region; Sonoma County (California) Connection; ACEs/Resilience Team & Children’s Resilience Initiative in Washington; and Wisconsin Collective Impact Coalition. 

Read more articles by Michelle Bearden.

Michelle Bearden is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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