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Using a Heal Fund Grant
to Heal Emotionally

On August 11 and 12, Shelly Wood and her colleagues were bombarded with phone calls. “And we were like, ‘Yeah, this is why we started this,’” Wood said.

“This” refers to a small group of mental-health professionals that had organized just a few months earlier, in May 2017. They call themselves the Central Virginia Clinicians of Color Network.

“A group of us came together and decided there was a gap in the community,” Wood said. There weren’t enough black therapists, for one. For another, therapy wasn’t always affordable. And there was a stigma in the black community against seeking mental-health treatment.

The network formed to meet those needs. Then the violence occurred.

And soon the phones started to ring. “Because we had just started,” Wood said, “we were able to call people and say, ‘We have five clients looking for a therapist. Are you able to do anything? Pro bono? At a discount? Can you see people?’”

CACF Heal Fund Shelly Wood Women'sInitia

Shelly Wood poses with members of the Central Virginia Clinicians of Color Network.


After a weekend of chaos and death, the need was intense.

“It certainly created a new trauma that was in our faces,” Wood, a therapist, said. Just seeing the violence on television can take a toll, she explained, citing research done after 9/11. It’s a toll that lives in the body—especially black and brown bodies.

There was another kind of trauma that came from the violence, though. Wood called it “some of the old trauma that was under the surface.” It was as if hundreds of years of racial violence and oppression had just pulled up outside, engines revving. “It’s right here,” Wood said. “It’s your neighbor, and how are you going to deal with that?”

In part by making black therapists available to see black clients.

Shelly Wood: It's Hard to Say the Things That You Feel

Shelly Wood: It's Hard to Say the Things That You Feel

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And a Heal Charlottesville Fund grant made this kind of healing possible. Because Clinicians of Color is not a registered nonprofit, however, another group served as a fiscal sponsor: The Women’s Initiative. TWI provides mental-health counseling, social support, and education for women in the community, and Wood and several other members of the Clinicians of Color Network work there.

In fact, The Women’s Initiative received Heal Fund money even before any of the special grants were distributed. “In the wake of August 12, we were one of the first responders for mental-health crises,” Elizabeth Irvin, the group’s executive director, said. “We added walk-in clinics, coordinated volunteer clinicians, and provided support groups and debriefing sessions for those who were directly impacted on August 12.”

Irvin said that volunteers had done some work in advance of the rally, but neither their organization nor the broader community was prepared for what was to come.

“So we just rallied,” she said.

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