The name says it all: The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding seeks to safeguard the well-being and safety of Southern Arizonans by promoting those three principles.
"We currently focus on two areas: anti-bullying and mental-health awareness, and both of those areas of interest literally came from families of those in the intensive care unit after the tragic events of Jan. 8, 2011," said Jennie Grabel, executive director of the fund. It was started by Rep. Ron Barber, who was the district director for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and one of shooting victims that day.
A benefit concert in March 2011 provided seed money for the fund, which was supplemented by another concert in January 2012 and private donations.
Since its inception, the nonprofit has funneled $30,000 back into the community, funding special events, projects, youth grants, conferences and a series of speakers at the Interfaith Community Services Mental Health Conference.
In June it will fund its first official round of $24,000 in grants to nine local organizations and projects dedicated to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and ending bullying.
Grant recipients will range from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Arizona and the Special Olympics to Hope Inc., which will take mental-health first aid training throughout Pima County.
"With the grants, we really wanted to tackle these issues that are pervasive in our community," Grabel said. "Ron (Barber) worked for many years with people with developmental disabilities and he didn't want the incident on Jan. 8 to perpetuate fear and further discrimination and myths about mental illness. … It was important that Jared Loughner (the shooter that day) not become the face of mental illness in our community."
Seeking solutions to counter bullying, which can result in depression and isolation, is another priority, Grabel said. The grants will address bullying throughout life, from preschool through high school and beyond.
A $2,000 grant to the Center for Community Dialogue at Our Family Services will examine bullying in the workplace through several community forums that will be open to the public.
The center, which is another outgrowth of Jan. 8, is dedicated to civil discourse and community mediation through trained volunteer mediators who help groups, neighbors and organizations with conflict resolution. It also provides training in a variety of communication methods and offers community events and forums designed to spark constructive dialogue in safe, non-threatening, mediated environments.
"We help people deal with diversity of opinion and thought. You can disagree with someone without making them out to be a bad guy and creating stress," said Catherine Tornbom, executive director of the center.
"America prides itself on diversity, but when it comes down to getting people to sit down and talk about tough topics, it is difficult for us. We want people to do that in a way that sustains relationships instead of potentially destroying them."
Tornbom said that while the public has become increasingly aware of the prevalence of bullying among youth, people are not always forthcoming about bullying among adults. People are shocked when they're bullied at work and are unsure about how to handle the situation.
"Workplace bullying is an under-explored topic in Tucson," she said. "We constantly hear about adults who are beside themselves with stress or worry or fear because they are experiencing workplace bullying, and we wanted to begin this conversation."
On the other end of the spectrum, a $4,000 grant to La Paloma Family Services will fund creation of an anti-bullying curriculum for as many as 400 foster children age 12 to 18. The curriculum will use evidence-based best practices from schools and develop a special program unique to the foster care setting.
"Foster kids go through multiple placements and often times have low self-esteem, so either they are more likely to bully or be bullied," said Lisa Whitehead, La Paloma Family Services executive director.
"We are looking at teaching things like mindfulness and being able to view situations from another person's perspective."
Get involved / C6
If You Go
• What: The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding Grant Awards.
• When: 10 a.m. to noon Sunday.
• Where: Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway.
• Cost: $5 per person donation requested.
• Details: Festivities include music by local musicians and a presentation of $24,000 in grants to local organizations and projects followed by cupcakes and refreshments. All proceeds from the event benefit the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding. For more information or to make a donation, go to fundforcivility.org or send an email to Jennie@fundforcivility.org.
• Info: To volunteer with the Center for Community Dialogue at Our Family Services or to learn more about mediation training programs, go to ourfamilyservices.org/programs/center.html or call 323-1708, Ext. 121.
Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com