The 10th annual Crime Victims Survivors Memorial Service is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at First Christian Church at 3911 Hazel St.
“It’s amazing how this has grown since we had that first one,” said the Rev. Edna Morgan of Healing Place Ministries, one of the sponsors of the event, which kicks off National Crime Victims Rights Week. “That first year we had about 40 people and last year we had about 140.”
Morgan said one of the goals of the annual service to to recognize the survivors of homicide victims in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.
“We want them to feel that they are not alone,” she said. “Crime and particularly violent crime affects all of us, and sometimes it takes people years to overcome their grief and to move to a new normal.
“Victim survivors get the chance to share their grief with others who are also grieving,” Morgan said.
One thing that hasn’t changed since the services began is the number of homicide victims who are recognized. Those numbers continue to be close to 20 countywide.
“In 2011 we only had 11, but they’ve gone back up now,” Morgan said. “We’re going to keep working until we see those numbers go down and stay down.”
There were 17 homicides reported in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County last year,
Another important part of the annual service is to provide information about resources available to survivors and to the public at large, Morgan said, mentioning the Committee Against Spouse Abuse, the Department of Human Services and the Area Agency on Aging, among others.
“We’re trying to change the climate of the city,” she said. “We want to show that our village cares about each other and from seniors to babies, we all need to be loved.”
Additional emphasis has been placed on getting more young people involved with the recent art contest at Pine Bluff High School, and Morgan said the work of those young artists will be displayed at the Jefferson County Courthouse through Friday and at the service Sunday, where the artists will also be recognized.
Each surviving family will be presented a prayer shawl, which was created by women from churches all over the state, and then prayed over before being sent to Pine Bluff for the service.
“That’s just a way of staying we love you and we care about you,” Morgan said.
Other sponsors of the service include the Victim Witness Division of the 11th Judicial District-West, which includes Jefferson and Lincoln counties, the Area Agency on Aging and First Christian Church.