Kellie Cors-Atherly knows there’s a lot of hate and anger sparking the growing violence in her native Atlantic City.
But she has some weapons of her own: education, awareness and a lot of love.
“We’ve got to get together to stop this nonsense,” she says. “If we don’t, who is going to?”
She began Peace Amongst the Youth as part of that. On Wednesday, she will host a free Victims of Crime Compensation seminar at the All Wars Memorial building in Atlantic City.
“I’m just trying to let people know there this training,” Cors-Atherly says. “A lot of people don’t even know what’s available to victims of violent crimes.”
The mother of five has seen the criminal system from both sides.
In December 2012, her 13-year-old son, Todd Mitchell, was fatally shot in Pleasantville. Two weeks later, her son Dwayne Townsend, then 18, was arrested on a probation violation and remains in prison. At least there she knows he’s safe, she says.
As a young single mom, she begged for help when she saw her eldest son having problems. She was told he would be OK, but she knew better.
“This is my child,” she would tell them. “I’m the one running these streets at 1 or 2 in the morning, not you all. I’m living what he’s living. I’m not just closing the door and turning a blind eye.”
Now, Cors-Atherly wants a change. And, she is going to find that help so others don’t have to go through the losses she has.
“Where does the help begin?” she asks, pointing to different tacks being taken to help the drug epidemic.
Cors-Atherly pointed to a new program in two Ocean County police departments where there are days during the week drug addicts can come and get help rather than charges.
“There no rehabilitation middleman trying to turn (the violence problem) around,” says the current Pleasantville resident. “It may not be heroin addiction, but there’s an addiction going on.”
Many of these kids want help, Cors-Atherly says. They just don’t know how to get it. Or, sometimes, even how to ask.
When she held her first teen night in Atlantic City in November, she said about a third of the kids there asked for a boys group. Now, she has plans for a meeting between some of the men in the community and the boys.
But first, she will help those looking to understand victim rights.
Richard Pompelio, of the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center has been Cors-Atherly’s go-to person when she’s had questions from friends and family touched by violence. There was so much need, he decided to give a seminar.
The meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the All Wars Memorial building in Atlantic City.
“I’m just tired of seeing these babies die for no reason,” Cors-Atherly says. “Kids can only be so sheltered. Eventually, what’s happening outside comes in, no matter how hard you try to keep it out.”