I am Riley Sloat, and I am currently a senior at Elizabethtown Senior Highschool. I am interested in having a career as a mediator due to the business and Personal Law class I took in my sophomore year, wherein part of the curriculum was to do a mock mediation.
Although a 20-minute guided activity was nowhere near comparable to the real thing, I discovered that I liked the setting and atmosphere mediation provided compared to any alternative ways to resolve disputes introduced by the class. Mediation seems much more appealing because it focuses on communication between two people and not their avatars. It comes up with a mutual agreement. It hadn’t felt like it solved a singular issue but instead provided the tools to bridge a gap between two more people. I’ve since figured that mediation was something I wanted to pursue.
Due to a lack of genuine insight into what such a profession entails and a need for work experience credit to graduate, I’ve sought out Advoz to work as their intern. Advoz initially struck me as an organization that has demonstrated genuine care for the people it helps, whether it be via its mediation or restorative justice program. In many ways, Advoz embodies the initial reasons why I became interested in mediation. I hope that my time here will help me gain further insight and experience in the fields Advoz works within. I believe that I can only become more interested and passionate in mediation by being here!
What are the odds of success for a young man of 16, who already has a record, dark skin, is in a single-parent home, and has already experienced prison? We can agree, and research shows that he has an uphill battle.
One thing we know about adolescent development is that youth need spaces where they “belong” and can feel competent. Many times, the aftermath of an offense leads to shame and punishment. But what if that offense could instead result in an opportunity to accomplish needs for belonging and competency? Restorative Victim-Offender Conferencing has that potential. However, when a harmed party chooses not to participate in that dialogue, it can halt that opportunity. Advoz is now extending that dialogue and restoring these otherwise lost opportunities in a creative way.
Recently, I met with the young man I described above. I will call him José. He was ready to take responsibility for the incident and to making things right through dialogue. But as commonly happens, the harmed party never responded to Advoz outreach.
Instead of ending the process, we invited José and his parent to meet with a community member as a ‘victim representative,’ who I will call Damien, to discuss ‘making things right.’ As it turns out Damien had a personal connection to José’s grandfather. Damien became misty-eyed as he told stories of the Grandpa’s mentorship and positive work in his community. José heard from a stranger that he belongs to a family where men have been positive, caring leaders in his neighborhood. José heard from a stranger that he has the potential to live into that legacy.
As this already powerful conversation was winding down, Damien mentioned working with community programs for younger youth. Almost as an aside, Damien asked if José might consider coming to speak with those youth about positive decision making. José agreed, already imagining how speaking for younger youth builds his own competency as a young man.
Since 2020, Advoz has been implementing this practice of a Victim Representative, inviting community members to speak about harm and increase accountability when the person(s) actually victimized do not participate. José is one of the 15 youth who have participated. More often than not, the sessions result in uncanny connections made between the representatives and the offending persons/youth and their families, like what happened between José and Damien.
Thanks to a grant from the Lancaster Osteopathic Health Foundation and other community supporters, Advoz has been able to add training for facilitators and community members to make this new step a reality. And we invite you to be part. Might you be called to enhance accountability and support for young people who have caused harm and want to make things right? Reach out to us at http://advoz.org/volunteer or email Krista@advoz.org.
As we reflect on the last 18 months, we want to thank each of you for helping Advoz arrive in 2021 in a stronger position than we were before COVID-19 first hit.
Looking back to last year, right before the pandemic, we had experienced an organizational change with a new Executive Director and, on top of that, had moved from our old office to a new location in the Griest Building, overlooking Lancaster Square. Two of these challenges would have been enough for most organizations but to experience them during a pandemic made it even more challenging.
Looking back, we are thrilled to be able to highlight some of our achievements:
We achieved an internal goal of significantly increasing our Board makeup with diverse members (and you can “meet” them at the end of this publication).
We were able to significantly increase our training revenue, both for our volunteers for our mission, and for organizations needing specific help.
Conduct a number of successful mediations, victim-offender conferenced, trainings, and circle group discussions via Zoom. This was a revelation as our work is predicated on face-to-face experiences.
Improved partnerships with police and community groups for trainings, mediation, and conversations.
It is our hope that your support of our organization will continue to expand the mission and vision of Advoz, as we seek to transform conflict into conversation.
Advoz Board of Directions; as of June 2021
James Landis, President, Management Consultant
Lucille Connors, Vice President, CEO at Significa Benefit Services
John Huber, Secretary, Retired Attorney at Gibbel, Kraybill & Hess
John Bomberger, Treasurer, Retired CEO, Choice Books
Shuan Balani, Vistage Chair
Rob Bomberger, President at Benjamin Roberts, LTD.
Jennifer Creel, Operations Director, Leadership Lancaster
Dr. Ling Dinse, Assistant Professor, Counseling and Social Work, Lancaster Bible College
John Eby, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Messiah College
Peter Faben, Attorney, Barley Synder
Marjorie Carkhuff Mattey, Retired Health Care Consultant
Ken Nissley, Retired Case Manager, IT Professional
Judge Jodie Richardson, Magisterial District Judge
Barbara Spiegelberg, Retired Real Estate Professional
Warren Taylor, Director of Development, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
Staff; as of June 2021
Chris Wenden, Executive Director
Chris Fitz, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Training
Krista Rittenhouse, Director of Restorative Justice
Restorative justice is first and foremost a process, rather than an outcome. That’s one of the major lessons that I learned as an intern with Advoz this fall. As someone used to learning new skills quickly, it took me a while to understand that being a facilitator requires constant learning and practice. These aren’t skills I can pick up by just attending a training, but a whole new way of approaching conflict and reconciliation which you adopt over time.
My three months with Advoz was a great opportunity to work with the passionate Advoz team. I strengthened my writing, outreach, and office skills and developed my teamwork and collaboration abilities.
More importantly, I attended Advoz’s trainings in conflict, communication and culture, restorative justice and mediation. These were definitely the highlights of my experience. I learned to be a better listener, a community facilitator and an impartial mediator. Above all, I learned about myself and how I approach conflict and relationship.
Advoz’s trainings broadened my capacity to actively listen and engage in constructive conflict with friends and family. They expanded my abilities to facilitate conflict transformation and restorative practices with others. These are life skills I know I will use in my future peacemaking work.
It was particularly exciting in my last month to apply my newly shaped skills as a volunteer facilitator with the restorative justice team. This experience was a lesson in just how much of this work is a process – and not outcome.
During my first case as a restorative justice facilitator, I felt pretty confident going into my introductory meeting with the youth offender. I just finished the training. I had all this practice in active listening and paraphrasing. I had done pretty well in role plays. As I looked over my manual, I figured this was as prepared as I could get.
We started the meeting. I introduced Advoz and confidentiality, and the meeting outline like a pro, and then we moved to hearing the youth’s story. I asked my first question and… my brain went blank. I couldn’t think of a follow up question. I knew what needed to be drawn out but wasn’t sure how to articulate a question. Luckily, my co-facilitator did, and the meeting ended successfully with the youth wanting to take accountability for his actions.
At first, I was disappointed in myself for not asking more questions, or forgetting part of the meeting. As I apologized to my co-facilitator, she assured me that it was a very successful meeting, and she told me the same thing after the next two sessions. After hearing more facilitators’ stories, seeing my co-facilitator at work, and noticing my own improvement from just one case, I realize that this work is not something you can just pick up one day. It’s building restorative habits in listening and perceiving other people.
I am so inspired by the facilitators I’ve met at Advoz. Not only are they facilitating restorative understanding between parties, they are also engaging in life and relationships restoratively. I now see each facilitation as an opportunity to witness reconciliation and the power of human goodness, while also learning about my own strengths and weaknesses.
The other discovery I made is that Advoz’s impact cannot be measured in the number of cases completed or the number of circles held. The greater impact of Advoz is in sharing a different way of viewing conflict, harm, and communication with the community. Even if everyone can’t attend an Advoz training, the services open eyes to a different, more empathetic way of addressing harm and conflict than is common in our society.
Interning at Advoz, I was so encouraged by the number of community members who expressed their whole-hearted support for Advoz’s work and invested in building peace in the Lancaster community. If there is one thing that shows Advoz’s deep impact, it is the incredible passion and devotion shown by those most engaged – staff, volunteers and other community partners.
As I end this journey with Advoz, I feel empowered to continue using restorative practices in my own life and to take up Advoz’s mission of transforming conflict through face-to-face dialogue within my own community.
Sara Crouch is in her final year at Long Island University Global studying Global Studies with minors in Arts & Communications and Spanish. During her free time, you can find her hiking, reading, and traveling. Upon completion of her BA, Sara plans to obtain a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, and pursue a career in peacebuilding work.
The violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many other people of color, are tragic, unnecessary and unjust. In acknowledging that we all play a role consciously or subconsciously in the reality of our current position as a community and a nation, we vow to be open to true listening and learning.
The mission of Advoz is to help people add their voice and listen in situations of conflict. This situation begs for many voices. Advoz equips our community to constructively handle conflicts, violence and crime.
Advoz enhances communication, accountability and mindfulness, empowering parties in a conflict or crime, even offenders and victims, to mend broken relationships, find resolution, and build stronger, safer communities.
Advoz will continue to reach out to local community partners to listen, to learn and to lend services for diverse parties to add their voice and not only express their concerns but also to hear the concerns of others.
This is a listening and learning journey in which we, as mediators, facilitators and coordinators of conflict resolution and restorative justice, need to seriously engage. The following steps are just one of many steps we will be taking in the coming weeks and months.
Advoz will examine our own level of diversity, including with our Board, our staff, our mediators, and our facilitators. We will also review our own policies, processes and programs to identify those areas that can improve how we serve the African American community and all persons of color.
When we take the time to actively listen and learn from others, we discover and value their life, their upbringing, their fears and their joys. The journey of learning about someone else’s world is an important process that takes time and commitment.
Advoz invites our community to take the following steps with us:
Extend Advoz’s work by having conversations of your own, with your neighbor, your family, your colleagues. Listen to their feelings and their stories. Position yourself as a listener first, a facilitator second and a fellow storyteller third. Notice what comes up for you—and for your relationship. Click here for a brief conversation guide.
Join the Circle
The next “Advoz Hour,” Monday, June 22nd at 1 pm, will be an opportunity to process “racism in our communities” through a virtual Circle Process. As a predominantly white organization, we have work to do, internally and externally. This is one step—and you can contribute while doing your own work. Click here to register.
Advoz welcomes a new Executive Director, Chris Wenden, to focus on program expansion and development throughout Lancaster County.
“To continue the mission and expand our work and role in the community, the Board of Directors has recruited Chris Wenden to lead the organization as Executive Director. In his role Chris will develop and execute a long-term strategy to meet the needs of our community in areas of restorative justice, mediation and training; by focusing on creating a safe environment and opportunity for all voices to be heard”, says Lucille Connors, Advoz Board President.
Advoz has been serving Lancaster County Community in the areas of restorative justice and mediation for over forty years; two organizations, formerly the Lancaster Mediation Center and Center for Community Peacemaking/Lancaster Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP), joined forces three years ago to direct and focus their resources to better serve the people in our community. Wenden says, “The key areas of restorative justice, especially with juvenile offenders and the range of mediation and conflict resolution services, are much needed programs in today’s world.”
Helping people, both victims and offenders, find closure is a rewarding and challenging task. Bringing the tools and opportunity for constructive dialog in disputes involving neighbors, business and schools brings us together as a community.
“I am excited to be serving with a large group of trained mediators and an enthusiastic and talented staff that are dedicated to seeing Lancaster County transformed from a place of conflict to a place of vibrance through face-to-face dialogue programs.”
Wenden has headed up other non-profits in Lancaster County but believes that the goals and mission of Advoz can have a uniquely positive impact on those we are privilege to serve.
For Media Inquiries, contact Advoz at 717-397-2404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Wenden was originally born in Sydney Australia. He has headed up a number of non-profits in Lancaster County and will graduate with an MBA in Non-profit and Executive Leadership in May.
Chris is married to Michelle, who is a Lancaster County native, they have 2 children through adoption and have been foster parents for 3 others.
Chris has developed a unique perspective on reconciliation as he has journeyed through the process of building a relationship between his adopted children and their birth families.
Chris is excited for the challenge of leading Advoz as they continue to work toward changing futures for the better for individuals and for the larger community.
call is easy to underestimate. Through my work at Advoz, I learned that a phone
call is enough to help build transparency and trust with victims of crimes. The
power of empathy flows during these conversations, and I feel the vulnerability
in the victim’s voices.
I was a Youth Ministries graduate, but I did not interact with “juvenile offenders” until I came to Advoz. Doing restorative justice and mediation brought me in contact with a lot of different people — youth and adults — and gave me the opportunity to help facilitate the healing of youth, parents, and families who’ve experienced brokenness.
blessed to be a part of the Victim Offender Conferencing Program at Advoz this
year—both as an office team member and as one of the conferencing facilitators.
One of the most impactful aspects of my job is reading the Victim Impact
Statements. Reading a piece of their stories, when they are provided, reminds
me how important it is to build empathy.
discovered that empathy comes easier for some youth than it does for others,
and our job as facilitators is to give a gentle nudge in the right direction.
In other words, when challenged with objections from young people regarding the
severity of their crimes, knowing how to ask the right questions or how to push
back on these objections is crucial to help build their understanding of victim
on my time at Advoz, I am reminded of the power of empathy in our office as I
give phone calls to victims. The purpose of our initial calls is to gauge the
victim’s willingness on hearing updates regarding the juvenile who harmed them.
Many times, neither myself at Advoz nor Victim Witness Services is able to get
in contact with some of these victims. Interacting with victims of crimes, even
if it’s just over the phone, is not to be taken for granted.
thankful for the cross-cultural interactions I take part in during my phone
calls and meetings with Spanish speaking victims and parents. The ability to
communicate with people from other cultures allows Advoz to expand the
demographic that we serve.
As I move forward with Advoz, it’s easy for me to remember our mission, the mission that brought me in the door: transforming conflict through face to face dialogue.
Melisa Betancur is a program assistant at Advoz and in a year-long service-learning partnership with the Shalom Project in Lancaster. She was born in Colombia, South America and grew up in Northern New Jersey, earning her BA from Eastern University in 2019.
The graphic above illustrates the positive differences we can make when we consistently put in the time and energy to shift the culture of our institutions with a restorative justice lens. Changing our community’s culture of conflict is no small goal, but it’s a worthy one because the people at the center of it, our kids, are worth it.
What is a restorative culture? In essence, it’s the ongoing balance of participation for those involved with three goals: 1) accountability to repair harm, 2) enhancing the competence for those committing harm and 3) community safety.
Public schools have for years walked a fine line between the accountability and support of their students as they seek to create a positive learning environment free of violence, bullying and threats. Because students are mandated to attend school, they are also create a de-facto community space in which numerous norms, strengths and challenges converge that reflect our dynamic society.
Zero tolerance education systems were popular among schools searching for simple catch-all solutions to improving students’ behaviors inside and outside the school–with an emphasis on safety. Such schools have used suspension and expulsions that address wrong-doing and removal of those who violate norms or threaten safety. High suspension rates do not correlate to better student development; studies show that the opposite occurs.
Fania Davis, Phd, is the founder of RJOY: Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth and the principle pioneering advocate behind the implementation of restorative justice across the public Oakland Unified School District, serving more than 37,000 students in 118 schools.
Dr. Davis’s experience, not just implementing restorative justice on a large scale but also researching its effectiveness, has much to offer Lancaster County on its own journey to being a more equitable and restorative community. For that reason, Advoz is inviting her to contribute to a Cross-Community Conversation on January 20th with a number of youth stakeholders from education, law enforcement, courts and community leaders. It’s an effort made possible thanks to the partnership with Lancaster County Juvenile Probation and Community Action Partnership and with sponsorship of the Lancaster County Community Foundation and the High Foundation.
Peacemaking is work. It requires attentiveness, perseverance, even blind faith to go the extra mile with each person or organization involved.
It’s a mile worth walking, as we have watched the payoff for places who invest in restorative approaches. In one school district, we worked with teachers for a year only to see the school discontinue its effort. They later established a full-time “restorative facilitator” who is now a resource person for Advoz. It’s one of many steps shifting toward a restorative culture. Read more about effectiveness of implementing Restorative Justice in other schools in Pennsylvania in a study conducted by the Rand Corporation.
Your support of Advoz helps us take one restorative step at a time alongside the many critical institutions here in our community. This year, we raised more than $30,000 in matching “Back to School” support for dozens of troubled youth to get a fresh start through Advoz’s existing restorative justice “victim-offender” dialogue. In November, we raised an additional $33,730 in Lancaster’s Extraordinary Give.
The Cross-Community Conversation with Dr. Fania Davis is another step made possible with the support of our partners and people like you.
Advoz has a new friendly voice who could be answering your phone call; Addrienne Whitfield began in September as Advoz’s administrative assistant. She joins the organization from the travel and service industry where she brings extensive customer service experience and organizational skills. On any given day, you’ll find Addrienne directing inquiries for conflicts, inviting volunteers to work an event or getting better deals with our vendors. Addrienne enjoys spending time with family and friends, where she already has achieved peacemaker status. In her free time, you’ll find her at music concerts or escaping to the beach.
“I think it’s important that people aren’t just judged or incriminated from their past mistakes. I’m excited to be part of a place that gives a real learning opportunity in our justice system, rather people just feeling bad from what they did,” Addrienne relates.
“I see how people don’t have to carry a burden when they can express themselves and their feelings. They can move forward and put the past behind them. Being part of Advoz is a learning experience for me as well.”
We’re excited to have Addrienne contribute to Advoz’s present and future as she keeps our office humming — with an extra-friendly voice.
Romeero Melendez is a young man referred to Advoz’s restorative justice program after a graffiti incident handled by local police and a Youth Aid Panel. He sat down to speak with Advoz about his experience with the justice system in a community heavily impacted by contact with the justice system (law enforcement, courts, probation and prison). Two years after his offense, he’s an active and creative contributor to his community through after-school breakdancing sessions at his church’s storefront, creating and selling his own art and competing on a breakdancing circuit in the Northeastern US.
Advoz: “You have a sense of vision for where you’re going and where your community is going. What can Lancaster be?”
Romeero: “I believe Lancaster can be a place known all around the world, and I already think it is, low key. I t think it’s the best of both worlds. I think you get all perks of living in a city, but not the negatives of living in a big city. You get the city atmosphere, without the thousands of people. It’s a good place for opportunity, and it’s growing.”
Advoz: “How can we get there?”
need to make moves to bigger things. There’s a lot of talent, and there
currently isn’t that platform to bring people to that next level. People who made it had to do it all themselves
and go somewhere else to do what they were trying to do. I always say people
fall into small city syndrome, who don’t see people coming up from their
community, so they don’t believe they can make it themselves. We more
opportunities to let these people grow.”
Romeero’s Words to Advoz’s Investors and Volunteers
Advoz: “What would you want to say to people who are investors, donors, and volunteers? And what is the value you see?”
Romeero: “I definitely would invest in restorative practices; I honestly just see positives and progression. The way the court system works is not always the best choice to create change, because there a lot of people who need help. They’re not bad people, they just did bad things and got caught-up. If more people got help who were caught up in that negative…they could be successful.”
Chris: “You’re doing a lot now [after being involved in restorative justice] for the community. What’s your hope in giving back?”
Romeero: “I want to be an example of someone who made their own path and followed their own dreams; and didn’t let anyone tell them otherwise. I want to be an example for the city, the urban environment, because that’s where I come from, and encourage people to be an entrepreneur. This is a great time to be an entrepreneur, and because of the internet people can capitalize on their talents. People like cool personalities and can make a living off those opportunities, even in a place like Lancaster. I want people to understand their potential. I want to keep encouraging people, especially the younger generation to, to pursue their talents. For me it was dancers and DJs in the hip-hop community. I didn’t grow up with a father, and those were the members in the community who were mentors for me.