Program Offers Volunteerism as Healing for Newtown Teens

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June 20, 2015; Associated Press

As a country, it seems that we run from one crisis story to the next. The news media moves on, and so do we all. Over this weekend, as we felt the impact of the Charleston shootings, a story surfaced showing what one nonprofit in Newtown, Connecticut, is doing to help its community move forward after the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School back in December of 2012.

Ben’s Lighthouse is a nonprofit restricted fund of the Trinity Episcopal Church of Newtown, Connecticut that sponsors service trips for teenagers to give “perspective and to empower them at a time when many feel powerless.” Of the many teens who apply to become potential volunteers, twenty are chosen by lottery for the annual trip. The group includes both those who knew victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and those who felt its impact as part of the Newtown community.

The trip for 2014 was to Colorado, where volunteers helped rebuild homes destroyed by floodwaters. One 15-year-old participant spent a week helping to reframe the first floor of a ruined two-story house. He was able to connect to the couple who had lived in that house through long talks about “life in general and how things happen to you.” The trip also included a visit to the memorial for the victims of the Columbine High School shooting and a meeting with family members of the victims of that tragedy. The teens returned from the trip to Colorado with a stronger sense of hope.

It’s possible to search the Internet to find the many nonprofits that have been formed in the aftermath of the various tragedies. In Columbine, Colorado, Rachel’s Challenge was formed. After the shootings in Aurora, Aurora Rise began. The Koshka Foundation, created after the Virginia Tech shootings, is a Washington D.C. nonprofit focusing on improving school safety and supporting crisis survivors. The VTV Family Outreach Foundation was created with the money from the lawsuit settlement with the state of Virginia. Their mission is multi-focus: caring for survivors, their families, and the families of the deceased; and ensuring that campuses are safe and secure.—Jeanne Allen