A Movement to Find Common Ground
By Victoria Cates, Movement Maker Tribe Editorial Team
Kassy Alia Ray founded Serve & Connect — a nonprofit organization that promotes positive police and community relationships — focused on igniting positive change through police and community partnerships — because she wanted to create something meaningful in the wake of her life’s worst tragedy.
In September 2015, her husband, Forest Acres, S.C., Police Department Officer Gregory Alia, was shot and killed in the line of duty. Kassy was suddenly a widow with a 6-month-old son.
For a long time, she couldn’t say the name of the man who killed her husband without feeling overwhelmed by the hatred in her heart. But the way she became a #MovementMaker was by discovering empathy for him.
As the mother of a young son, Kassy realized that her husband’s killer had once been a little boy himself, but something had led him down the wrong path. She wonders if that terrible day could have been averted if someone had helped him when he was in need.
In her late husband’s honor, Kassy created Serve & Connect to provide that kind of help. She felt called to create a new path forward for police and community relationships.
“I believe very deeply that if we want things to change, then we have to do something different,” she says.a
Finding Ways to Share and Support
The organization aims to rally people together around a common goal. It rejects an “us vs. them” mentality and instead promotes the idea that we are better together through trust and understanding. By finding common ground, Serve & Connect shifts mindsets and eliminates misconceptions. Kassy believes the only way to overcome the disconnection that seems so pervasive today is to show up with authenticity for one another.
“One of the most important things that we can all do together is to let ourselves see others and let ourselves be seen,” Kassy says. “That begins with us each finding the courage to be vulnerable and real with one another so that we can share our stories. By doing so, we are able to see all that we share. This allows us to create a new path forward.”
For instance, their Compassionate Acts Program provides resources to police to help people in need. Whether delivering a box of food or a warm winter coat on a cold winter night, these resources build a bridge for trust and relationships. Serve & Connect also facilitates community events between police and community partners that are designed to build a sense of community and connection. Events like Farmday Funday, Bountiful Harvest, and more increase accessibility of available resources and bring those who live and serve in high need areas closer together. Additionally, Serve & Connect’s COMPASS initiative takes a deep dive into community transformation in areas that have been historically marginalized.
Serve & Connect also supports police officers. It sponsors Greg Alia Day every Dec. 14 and the Feed an Officer Campaign to honor and thank officers. And it rallies around the families of slain officers.
Her desire to make a difference helped Kassy keep going in the wake of unimaginable loss. She has shared her story at forums including a TEDx event and the city of Columbia’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.
“It was such an honor to be invited in that space as a white woman and widow to a police officer,” she says. “This made me so proud of my community, and gave me a deep humbling sense,”
Through her work, she has learned that we are all much more the same than we are different: We share common goals for our communities to be safe, our families to be protected and for children to thrive.
Her son, Sal, now 4, is thriving himself, as is Kassy, who has remarried. She continues to hold Greg in her heart and finds great meaning in the work she does in his name.
“I believe we don’t give ourselves enough credit, but we are strong and can make a difference,” Kassy says. “We all have the capacity to make the change we want to see in the world.”
How to Join Kassy’s Movement
Want to help Kassy make a difference in police and community relationships?
- Donate to Serve & Connect.
- Follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (look for the “Together We Are Better” campaign launching to this fall).
- Subscribe to its biweekly newsletter.
- And if you’re in or near South Carolina, consider attending events such as the Knight of Honor Gala held annually.
Copyright (c) 2019 Williams Strategies, LLC. All rights reserved.