Liberty Elementary Grief Support Group

Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence’s Liberty Elementary Grief Support Group is the brainchild of Reverend Dr. Greta Willis. Reverend Willis is Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence’s Director of Community Engagement, founder of The Kevin L. Cooper Foundation and a survivor of gun violence. You can learn more about Reverend Willis’ story here.

In addition to working within communities to amplify and highlight the lasting impact violence has on survivors and the community, MPGV also works with youth to help stem the tide of violence. Reverend Willis directs our Liberty Elementary School Grief Support Group in West Baltimore. She and her team, including Ms. Darlene Cain and Ms. Jennie Johnson, meet the children for weekly sessions. Reverend Willis, Ms. Cain and Ms. Johnson have long been involved in providing much needed support to the people of Baltimore. As lifelong residents of Baltimore, they are acutely aware of the needs of the communities where these children live because they grew up in or near these neighborhoods.

 

Black youth disclose an average of three losses of loved ones to homicide starting in early childhood and with increasing frequency during the teen and young adult years. The students Reverend Willis and her team work with are identified by school staff members as children who need extra support because they have experienced the loss of a loved one. This loss is not limited to gun violence. Many of these children have parents who are serving sentences in the criminal justice system.

The programming was temporarily suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic started. However, by early May, most of the students were located. MPGV provided the Liberty Elementary Grief Support Team with iPads to help facilitate an online virtual support group.

 

MPGV is in a unique position to provide these services to the community. Our Executive Director is a trained clinical social worker who has four years of postgraduate training from the National Institute of Psychotherapies. After completing her studies, Liz Banach had a private practice in New York City and spent one day a week working in the New York City Corrections Department, providing therapy to court mandated patients. Ms. Banach is accustomed to working with a diverse population of individuals with varied needs. Reverend Greta Willis is an ordained elder and focused her studies on bereavement support.

 

Our volunteers also provide school wide, age appropriate activities for the children, talking about ways to engage in non-violence. Reaching out to youth at this critical time in their development, group leaders are able to demonstrate that community members care and are here to help.

Painting a peace banner

A Conversation with Reverend Dr. Greta Willis

The Liberty Elementary Team

Rev. Dr. Greta Willis

Rev. Dr. Greta Willis is an ordained Elder at the Pillar Worship Center under the leadership of Apostle Roger Johnson, Pastor. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Theology at the Pillar Bible College, Baltimore, MD. She is a wife (Deacon Mark Willis), mother, grandmother (Janaya & Kimani), sister and friend.

 

The gifts that were bestowed upon her have allowed her to advocate for youth and their families. Her primary focuses are at risk youth between the ages of 5-21. She motivates and inspires them. Her slogan is “Transforming Youth into “CHAMPIONS”. She is the co-founder of the Kevin L. Cooper Foundation, Inc., name after her youngest son Kevin L. Cooper whom life was stolen unjustly by a Baltimore City, Police Officer on August 12, 2006 at the tender age of 14 years old. Thrusting her to advocate against Police Misconduct holding them accountable for their actions. Rev. Willis is dedicated to advocate for the youth through her personal pain.

She travels nationally encouraging others through the word of God and standing with families who experienced loss. She has been able to turn her tragedy into Triumph. Through her Foundation she yearly, donates books, clothes and other necessary educational tools to various schools to promote education. Also, through the Foundation she has a Scholarship Fund, Achievement Award, FREE Summer Camp, Summer Connect program where school supplies, clothes, food, health screenings, literature and other items are given to the community at no cost.

 

Rev. Willis leads a grief support group at Liberty Elementary School in Baltimore, City for youth. She also graduated from the Ropers Academy …advocating for Victims of Crime and their families.

 

Rev. Willis was blessed to speak at the 2017 NAACP National Conference as well as Loyola College for Social Equality.

Rev. Willis is the Director of the Pillar Worship Center Family Kitchen (pantry) and Outreach Program in Southwest Baltimore. She is committed to strengthening families and communities as well as positively impacting the lives of our youth.

Ms. Darlene Cain

Ms. Darlene Cain is a resident of Baltimore City who is an advocate against violence. She enjoys working with youth to give hope and believe in brighter days ahead. Darlene is dedicated to spreading awareness about gun violence after the loss of her son. She is also the President and Founder of Mothers On The Move. Darlene is also proud to be a Mentor to young adults and assist Mothers and families who lost loved ones and encourage them to be a “Voice”.

Ms. Jennie Johnson

Ms. Jennie Johnson has been volunteering at Liberty Elementary School #64 for 20 years. Two of her grandchildren and one great grandchild graduated from Liberty Elementary. She is the assistant manager to the food pantry coordinator. She assists with all the activities during the school year: Fun Day, Spelling Bee, Ugly Sweater Day, and Back To School Night. She is also a chaperone when the kids go on trips. Ms. Jennie hosts a lunch bunch everyday for the fifth graders. Wherever she is needed, she will help.

UA-108453763-1