Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches, and Beth Messersmith, North Carolina Campaign Director for MomsRising, received the 2017 Effie Steele Award from North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. Effie Steele was a tireless advocate for gun violence prevention after her daughter and unborn grandson were murdered in a domestic violence dispute. She served on the NCGV Board of Directors for 6 years. She died earlier this year and the President’s Award and Director’s Award were both renamed for her.
Copeland was chosen for this honor because of her work at the Council to convene regularly the organizations working on gun violence prevention. Under her leadership this collective organized the first NC Stand Up Sabbath on the first anniversary of the Mother Emanuel AME massacre in Charleston, SC, and then repeated this effort on the second anniversary. Additionally, the collective organized Beyond Gun Violence 2017, a weekend of events exposing the myths of gun ownership and gun violence. The Saturday schedule with nationally recognized speakers, James Atwood, author of America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, Matthew Crebbin, Senior Minister of Newtown Congregational Church, and Mark Carman, American Coalition for Responsible Gun Ownership drew over 200 people at the United Church of Chapel Hill. She continues to lead the effort to raise awareness and help people understand the real issues at stake for gun ownership and gun violence.
In her work with MomsRising, Messersmith works on a plethora of issues impacting parents and children, including gun violence. She is deeply committed to gun violence prevention and readily shares the resources available through her organization. She was an early and willing participant in the efforts of the Council of Churches and was instrumental in helping to launch the Council’s web page of resources for those who want to learn more about gun violence prevention. Furthermore, she is a stalwart at the North Carolina General Assembly and regularly marshalls her “Moms” to call in and turn out for bills related to gun violence. She works closely with NCGV and other gun violence organizations, including the NC Council of Churches.