URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – The Silverwood Neighborhood in Urbana had been a place where shootings happened often.
“When I moved into the neighborhood, I was told welcome to the ghetto where nobody cares,” Giovanna Dibendetto, the executive director of Silver Hearts, said.
That was six years ago.
“About two weeks after I moved in, there was a shooting, and it just hit me. It’s not like I’ve never lived in neighborhoods like this, but being a Christian, I just went this is wrong. The kids are killing each other and they have no hope and they don’t know there’s another way of life,” she said.
That’s when she decided to do something about it. It started small, with just a few people meeting for lunch every Sunday, then an annual ice cream social, and from there it’s grown into what Silver Hearts is now. Providing food and resources to families who need in hopes to achieve Victory Over Violence.
“I want people to know we care. We care about this neighborhood, we care about the other neighborhoods,” she said.
And every year, hosting a block party. To bring neighbors together and try to bring an end to the shootings and violence.
“All these discussions we’re having about violence, this is what works,” she said. “You see people talking to each other that normally you wouldn’t you know, it’s awesome to see that,” she said.
She said it’s working.
“We went from 3 shootings that first summer to I don’t think, I can’t say for sure because I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I don’t think there’s been any in the Silverwood area,” she said.
Neighbors on the street said it’s a good thing for everyone.
“I like it. It’s good for us to get to know each other better, and just to have fun, get out and enjoy each other without any rowdiness and all that,” Jessica Knight, a neighbor, said.
“Out here it’s fun,” Mykhai Knight-Broughton, said. “I would come back for this.”
Dibendetto said even though she has since moved, she comes back often and makes sure the people here know they’re cared about.
“You have to show people you care and you have to show up, and you can’t show up just once or twice. You have to show up over and over and over,” she said.
Silver Hearts holds events like this one all year long. If you want to volunteer or donate to help, you can find their Facebook here.