Through tragedy, a family is formed.
For Suzanne Kelley, that has been the experience of the Community Unites event, which took place Saturday at the Main Street pavilion in Washington.
The event was originally started by Mystro’s Movement, of which Kelley is the president, as a way to remember her brother-in-law Vincent “Mystro” Kelley, who was shot and killed six years ago today.
Mystro’s Movement was joined this year by Harmony Life Center and Washington County United in putting the event together. The trio of organizations used Community Unites as a way to memorialize victims of violent crimes, raise awareness about issues such as addiction and racism.
The event featured free food, live music, public speakers and bike giveaways.
“Bringing everybody together, is like a big family right here,” Kelley said. “The only thing I don’t like about it is we meet people through tragedy, but in the end we become family.”
The Community Unites organizers hope that with the event, they will be able to reach those who are suffering – be it from the loss or a loved one or substance abuse – and help them through it.
As Rebecca Kelley puts it, it is a way to “pay it forward,” and continue to keep the memory of her brother-in-law alive by helping others.
“That’s the type of person he was, to help someone, a stranger, anything. We’re paying it forward in his honor, in his name. Just opening up and doing things for the community,” said Rebecca, the treasurer of Mystro’s Movement.
Vincent Kelley was killed while attempting to stop a bank robber on Father’s Day in 2013.
Vincent was shopping at the Giant Eagle in Washington when someone who had robbed Citizens Bank was getting away. When someone called out for help, Rebecca said Vincent went after the robber.
“When there was what we think was a gunshot, everybody backed off except my brother-in-law,” Rebecca said. “Then he climbed into the car and tried to stop him, and that’s when he was killed.”
Community Unites lasted throughout the day Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. In that time, there was always a large crowd beneath the pavilion – enjoying music, cotton candy and joining together in prayer.
Suzanne Kelley noted the large amount of support the event receives from the community, and the help Mystro’s Movement received this year from its partner organizations.
“They helped us tremendously. When I called (Harmony Life Center founder Michael “M.J.” Markley), he was already on board. He was going to have an event at the end of May, and then he was like, ‘Why don’t we just partner together and just do this,” Suzanne said. “Washington County United, which is Chris Ward, came in...We got a lot of support from the community. A lot of support.”