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Peace Initiative committee reviews summer, looks to future

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE The Peace Initiative committee met on Sept. 11 to discuss the events of the summer and to plan for the peace Week from Nov. 12 through 19.

Chaired by Mayor Michael Sullivan committee members reported on several programs, some of which took place over the summer and some that are continuing through the fall.

Sister Maureen Broughan said the Homework House started last February in the Immaculate Conception rectory was so popular that a new larger site in the Churchill neighborhood will be opened to accommodate another 60 children.

The program brings students and volunteer tutors together for one-on-one work on math and reading.

Originally, the program was aimed at boys ages five through 8, but Broughan said that parents asked if their daughters could also use the program. Now the program will focus on students in third through eighth grade.

Sister Joan Morrissey added that the Summer Peace Camp a one- week summer program attracted four times the number of children than expected.

The new Holyoke Community Mediation Service has had 10 referrals and have successful solved two conflicts, according to its director Enix Zavala. The program is located in the Volleyball Hall of Fame building at 444 Dwight St. and offers free mediation to resolve issues between neighbors, tenants and landlords.

Zavala said she has been working with the Holyoke Police Department in training officer to be aware of the programs and its services. Most of the issues through the program so far have been disputes about property boundaries.

Sullivan said the program should help make the officers' jobs easier as it gives them an additional resource.

Laurie Millman of the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club spoke on the progress of the Weed and Seed Program. Lyman Terrace has been a focus of the program and while there have been some successes she said the program still need "fine-tuning."

Residents are coming forward to speak about crime problems but are not using the anonymous tip line due to fear of retribution. Work advocacy works needs to be done, she said.

Trash is a problem in the neighborhood, although the city has added more pick-ups, she said, What is needed is an educational program to help residents see the value in recycling and in not littering and a new poster has been commissioned to help in this effort.

Sullivan said that he hopes to see the city's schools involved in Peace Week.

The next committee meeting will be Oct. 2 at 8:30 a.m. in the mayor's office.