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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Reconciliation goal of Journey of Hope

By: Scott Sickler
VT-N Staff Writer
The Valley Times-News
October 14, 1994
    VALLEY- Members of Murders Victims Families for Reconciliation (MVFR), a national organization dedicated to families of murder victims, held a public forum Thursday evening at the Bradshaw Library.
    The group, which believes in strict prison sentences for offenders but not the death penalty, featured a number of frank discussions of the pain and anger murder victims experience following the tragedy.
    Several local residents who have had family members murdered were present.
    One MVFR member, Don Norgord of Arizona, told those in attendance last night he was also a victim of murder but from a different perspective.  His stepson killed an elderly couple following his escape from prison in Arizona.
    The group panel discussion was coordinated by MVFR member Henry Heller of Virginia.  The organization is currently on a two-week public education tour of eight major cities and surrounding communities.
    MVFR and others on the Journey of Hope tour believe strongly that there is already enough death in the U.S. and that capital punishment is not the answer to the problem.  The answer, members believe, lies in the difficult process of overcoming the pain and anger from the violence in order to reach the healing process and, most importantly, reconciliation.
    The two-week journey included trips throughout the state of Georgia, northern Florida and a few in Alabama.
    “This organization reaches out to the victims to help them deal with the grief, anger and hate,” Heller said.  “We try to help the victims and their families to overcome that hate and to realize that we are better off for it.  We believe in an alternative to the death penalty.”
    Heller said perhaps the key to reducing the astronomical crime rate in this country is educating school children.
    “I talk to a lot of kids at schools about crime and hopefully ways in which we can prevent it.  Reconciliation and forgiveness can be the same.  Up to a few years ago I was for the death penalty until I realized something – it came from anger and hate.  I also am a victim – my grandparents and other family members were all killed by the Nazis just because we’re Jewish.”
    Local resident Shirley Hill shared her experiences.
    “On Nov. 21, it will be five years that I have been sober,” Hill said.  “But I drank for 20 years and I’ve learned that you cannot live as a person filled with so much pain from drugs and alcohol.
    “The 20 years that I drank I was a very selfish, self-centered person.  I was a victim and became one by drinking.  My victims are spread out everywhere and it’s very hard for me because I can’t take back what I did.  Women in prison live with these daily nightmares all the time.  Even when you’re out (of prison), you’re still a prisoner of guilt of what you did.  About 97 percent of the crimes in Alabama are committed by people who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.”