Frustrated with violence, Springfield residents strive for peace through “AVP”

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There’s a new program in hopes of ending the violence in Springfield. 22News spoke with the many people enthusiastic about it working to better their City.

Frustrated with murders, violence and negativity, people in Springfield met to find peace: the type of peace inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

“This is teaching us to recognize that and then to do things that make us more united,” said Mary Ellen Lowney, the Community Relations Manager for the Springfield Housing Authority, which hosted the event.

Dozens of people of all ages met for the first time in a relatively new movement known as the “Alternatives to Violence Project.” Organizers estimated close to 75 participants. They had to turn down some 50 others interested in the event, due to a lack of space.

“How do you not get violent when you’re angry, how do you use other channels and routes other than getting physical or verbally abusive?” explained Armando Olivares of Springfield. He represented the “Project Coach,” an organization that empowers young adults to coach children in sports and teaches them life lessons.

The goal of the program is to communicate more with others. The idea is with more communication, there is more acceptance, and with more acceptance, the violence in the Greater Springfield area will end.

Young adults felt comfortable sharing with others, and with 22News, their frustration with inequality and their suggestions to help spread the message of love.

“Showing that there’s more in common than differences and putting those differences aside to work for one common goal,” one young adult said. He passed the microphone to another youth who said, “One thing I can do is actually take the time and actually sit down to people because I feel like so many people don’t get the chance to get listened to.

This approach, known as AVP, has already been used among prison inmates and city leaders.

“Every single person is an equal. Doesn’t matter what your title is, doesn’t matter what you do for work, or if you work at all. It’s really about you are a person, you are an individual, and we are all equal,” said organizer Luz Lopez, an AVP facilitator.

Luz and other organizers are planning seminars for anyone interested in spreading messages of peace in the Greater Springfield community. You can find out how to get involved by emailing them at