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Join Special Guest Father Paul Abernathy for a Zoom Discussion on March 16th, at 7p.m. EST to discuss the Whole People Documentary Series and Trauma-Informed Community Development


On behalf of ACEs Connection, the CTIPP (The Campaign for Trauma -Informed Policy & Practice), and theRelentless School Nurse, we want to invite you to the streaming of parts 4 and 5 of the Whole People documentary series on the weekend of March 12th through March 14th, 2021. We will stream both parts on ACEs Connection in the Transforming Trauma with ACEs Sciences Film Festival community. The documentary viewing will be followed by a discussion with special guest, Father Paul Abernathy from the Neighborhood Resilience Project, who will be sharing about the Trauma Informed Community Development model, on Tuesday, March 16th at 7p.m. EST ( pre-register here). You can find more about Father Paul Abernathy, below.

  • You can find more about Father Paul Abernathy, Trauma-Informed Community Development, and the Neighborhood Resilience Project below.
  • To watch, simply join the Transform Trauma with ACEs Science community on ACEs Connection.
    • Return anytime over the weekend of March 12th, 2021 through March 14th, 2021 to watch the online streaming available all weekend.
  • Zoom discussion with Father Paul Abernathy & the Transform Trauma with ACEs Science Film Festival Community.

Prioritizing Community Expertise: Rev. Paul Abernathy on Trauma-Informed Community Development

“If someone is hungry, they aren’t listening. If someone is thirsty, they aren’t listening. Relieve strain and then facilitate interventions,” said Father Paul Abernathy, who is founder of the Neighborhood Resilience Project.

This is something Abernathy learned while “doing basic needs stuff,” as part of his work as a priest in the community. A few things became clear to him. They are as follows:

  1. “People were dealing with so much trauma in life,” and it was clear “the trauma is affecting them,” and also;
  2. “We know with suffering can come great wisdom, it’s a tremendous gem and a resource.”

He said that in addition to responding to basic needs, a trauma-affected community also needs to be “presented with opportunity making at the very same time,” in order to “change the culture, change a block, in a micro community, and with local community organizers who are trained to understand the trauma we suffered.”

“Interventions on one person have limited impact,” Father Abernathy. “For any given child who had limited interventions directed at him,” he said, “an hour of intervention a week has limited impact when living with trauma daily, rest of week, in some degrees very difficult, every day.”

He said he got tired of attending funerals where “there would be a boy in a casket and everyone saying, ‘He was such a good kid. So good. How did this happen?’”

“We had great conversations,” he said, “we were great at having emotional conversations,” but wanted to have more specific conversations “about the negative effects of trauma,” on the community and in the community - WITH the community and to tap into the community expertise along with clinical expertise in order to support entire blocks, neighborhoods, and communities.

TICD Quote

He said, through conversations and partnerships, and using the language, expertise, experiences, and wisdom of the community, he said, “and they gave birth to a concept he calls, Trauma Informed Community Development,” so that those most impacted by trauma are those helping communities heal and thrive.

He noted how he was speaking with an organizational partner, a large employer, and they were talking about wanting to hire people, “which is great,” he said, but the focus was on “talking about how to get people to change.” He said, “There was no talk of how to get the employer (or systems) to change,” and that troubles him.

“We’re about a year into this conversation and people always ask how we engage the community and get community at the table,” he said. “I can tell you how we are able to take community members to prepare and train,” he said. Instead of getting community members to join initiatives, he said:

“It’s about our community setting the table and partners coming in to sit at our table,” rather than the community sending individual members to outside organizations.

“We can find incredible people to work in coalition who understand this,” he said, as long as they understand, “The direction (of the work) comes from the community” and to partners such as universities or health departments who are clear that they are “receiving direction” from the community. Unfortunately, many community initiatives don’t even include people who live in the community where the initiative exists.

He seemed surprised that community engagement is an obstacle or issue for some initiatives, because to him, it’s essential.

His premise is this:

“Certain people have expertise we value, clinical expertise, for example. We have community experts who are vital. The role they play working on these issues - it’s community expertise.”

He believes that initiatives that lack community expertise won’t reach communities. His work builds on both community and clinical expertise to understand and create the Trauma-Informed Community Development (TICD) approach, now called the Neighborhood Resilience Project of which he is the Chief Executive Officer. Here’s more information about the Neighborhood Resilience Project.


More specifically, he said he has a 3-pillar approach

  1. Community Support is the first part and leads to community health and well-being and then community leadership and development emerge.  Community Support is engaging to reduce strain whether that means helping with food, a furnace, or housing and all the things that reduce strain.
  2. Health & Well Being via Community Intervention such as having a response team, he said, of “trained volunteers who respond when there’s a homicide or gun violence,” and that’s done ” through “a health center acting as the engine for the work.” This is a “micro community intervention as the model,” he said.
  3. With Leadership Development, he said, we have behavioral health community organizers, trauma responders, community leaders within a micro community

The three goals aligned with each pillar are:

  1. Engage
  2. Heal
  3. Empower


That is why, the work of a community must be done in the community where people live and with community members and community leaders.

This work can be done in partnership, he said. It can be done with community members and community influencers working together but not in isolation, and not without the community residents leading.

Community influencers can’t get far without working in the communities with those who are community leaders, those on the block and in the community.

Centering community expertise and combining it with clinical expertise is at the heart of his work and that is what he  hopes to operationalize using the Trauma-Informed Community Development (TICD) model. While TICD started in Pittsburg, there are almost a dozen cohorts using this approach in the following locations are:

  • Cleveland, OH
  • Crawford County, PA
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Kansas City, MO
  • New Britain, CT
  • Petersburg, VA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Sarasota, FL
  • Titusville, PA
  • Wind River Indian Reservation

These cohorts stay connected through the Neighborhood Resilience Project in order to share challenges and successes and grow this neighborhood based and community led approach.

“We have trauma-affected communities,” he said, and “What we need is for a community to create their plan and because it is their plan it’s their way of changing their block.”

“Looking at understanding that and gathering research,” to better understand them, he said is important, as “We need data,” from the communities, which will be gathered over the next several years. However, he cautions that we need not wait for the data to begin the work. “People want a formula,” he said. “You don’t need a formula. You need a framework that addresses local circumstances” and is led by local communities.

Rev. Paul Abernathy (Photo Source from You Tube)Father PaulFather Paul Abernathy is an Orthodox Christian priest and the founding CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project. Since 2011, Fr. Paul labored with the community to build this ministry to address Community Trauma with Trauma Informed Community Development (TICD) - A framework that transforms Trauma Affected Communities to Resilient, Healing and Healthy Communities so people can be healthy enough to sustain opportunities and realize their potential. Under Fr. Paul’s leadership, millions of dollars in food, clothing, furniture, transportation assistance, identification, free health care and emergency relief has been distributed to the Greater Pittsburgh Community. The framework of TICD also includes a Trauma Response Team and Micro-Community Interventions. Community groups from all across the nation have worked with Fr. Paul to be trained in the TICD Framework.

He has a B.A. in International Studies from Wheeling Jesuit University, and holds a Master in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a Master of Divinity from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. A former Non-Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army, Father Paul is a combat veteran of the Iraq War.

In addition to his work with the organization, Fr. Paul is and has been a member of multiple community boards and committees to include the Trauma-Informed PA Think Tank, PA State Parole Citizens Advisory Committee, Allegheny County Health Department’s Violence Prevention Community Advisory Board, and is a Foundation of HOPE, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy & Practice board member. He has received numerous community awards to include Eagle Scout, the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Fab 40 Award, Larry Richert’s Hometown Hero Award, Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 under 40, and Wheeling Jesuit University’s Fr. Pedro Arrupe Distinguished Alumni Award. Fr. Paul is the pastor of St. Moses Orthodox Church, a husband and father of two children.

More about the Whole People Documentary Film Series
Whole People 2Whole People is a five-part documentary series produced by Twin Cities PBS and CentraCare Health "spotlighting the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) through personal and community stories. It explores the long-term costs to personal well-being and our society. While much work needs to be done, there are many innovative developments to prevent and treat ACES. We all play a role in becoming a whole people,” per the website. In addition, this series comes with an excellent and extensive study guide to help with processing and group facilitation for those who watch this film in community settings. The study guide is co-written by Resmaa Menakem MSW, LICSW, S.E.P. of Justice Leadership Solutions, who is the author of My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies) and Pam Beckering, MS, LPCC, of CentraCare Health. It has questions, summary points, body-based practices and resources.

Whole People
The Transform Trauma with ACEs Science Film Festival Community & Co-Sponsors
This series is co-hosted by ACEs Connection, CTIPP (the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy & Practice), and The Relentless School Nurse. It is supported by generous filmmakers and producers who are making this limited-time access available for free for our members. All the films in this series focus on generational, historical, racial, and secondary trauma as well as individual, community, and systems healing and change. We will focus on how ACEs sciences can prevent and heal ACEs and inspire trauma-informed change supporting all of our families and communities. We have a new interest-based community on ACEs Community, free and open for all to join who are interested in this series.

ACEs ConnectionJoin movement
ACEs Connection is the human and digital catalyst that unites the people, organizations, systems and communities in the worldwide ACEs movement. We are its main information exchange and resource. And we are a support for hundreds of local, state and national ACEs initiatives to accelerate the use of ACEs science to solve our most intractable problems. We provide initiatives with a free community site on ACEs Connection, guidelines on how to launch and grow local ACEs initiatives, and powerful online tools that help initiatives measure their progress. For established initiatives, we offer access to more advanced tools, guidelines and services in the ACEs Connection Cooperative of Communities. Our network has 45,000+ members who share best practices while inspiring each other to grow the ACEs movement. We also publish a separate news site,, for the general public. The goals of our work are to prevent ACEs, heal trauma, and create resilience.

CTIPPThe Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy & Practice (CTIPP) CTIPP has launched a nationwide grassroots campaign to engage congressional offices and other federal leaders in supporting policies, programs, legislation, and appropriations that prevent and respond to trauma as well as build resilience. Visit CTIPP’s National Trauma Campaign webpage ( to learn more, to access trauma-informed advocacy toolkits and resources, to sign up for Campaign updates, and/or to join in this exciting movement yourself! (Questions? Reach out to

school nurseRobin Cogan / The Relentless School Nurse
Robin Cogan / The Relentless School Nurse is a school nurse, blogger, and activist. Robin's blog, The Relentless School Nurse was created to amplify school nursing. She tells stories from her health office in Camden, New Jersey and highlights the work of colleagues across the country. Robin is dedicated to gun violence prevention and sharing the importance of trauma-responsive education in school communities. She also teaches the next generation of school nurses at Rutgers University and grounds her curriculum in "A Pair of ACEs" - both individual and community adversity.

Thank You to All Whole Make This Free Film Festival Possible for Our Members
This film series would not be possible without the generosity of filmmakers Vic Compher & Rodney Whittenberg of Portraits of Professional Caregivers, Ana Joanes of Wrestling Ghosts, and the public programming of Whole People by PBS. We are grateful to all of them for making this film festival free and available to all of our members.

Cissy, Erin, Robin & Whitney

Cissy White /ACEsConnection

Robin Cogan / Relentless School Nurse
Erin Connolly / CTIPP
Whitney Marris /CTIPP


Images (11)
  • Father Paul: Father Paul Abernathy (source: YouTube)
  • NHP: Neighborhood Resilience Project
  • school nurse: The Relentless School Nurse Logo
  • Whole People 2: Whole People Documentary Logo
  • Whole People: Transforming Trauma with ACEs Science Film Festival
  • Study GUide Whole People: Whole People Logo
  • Join movement: ACEs Connection Logo
  • NRP: Trauma-Informed Community Development
  • TICD Quote: Neighborhood Resilience Project
  • Fthr

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