From guns to garden tools, jewelry: Southampton to host Swords to Plowshares demonstration Saturday

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 05-18-2023 1:57 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Susan Teece regularly wears a necklace with a chrome-colored heart charm. Though the piece of jewelry might not be considered flashy, it is attention-grabbing as many strangers often strike up a conversation about it. What many don’t realize upon first glance is that the heart, which remains cold to the touch, was once part of the barrel of a gun.

She picked up a necklace last year at a demonstration in Great Barrington where volunteers from violence prevention outreach program Swords to Plowshares Northeast used a forge and hammer to repurpose guns into garden tools and jewelry. While Teece has long had an interest in preventing gun violence and suicide prevention, she said the nationally-recognized demonstration transformed her into being a better advocate.

“I have not been able to take children being murdered out of my heart and head because I taught school at Norris School for 38 years,” she said.

Over the years, Teece has hosted a number of vigils on the front lawn of the First Congregational Church of Southampton in honor of the 20 first graders and six educators who were killed by a shooter in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. At the time of the shooting, her son’s family lived in the same community.

After routinely participating in active shooter drills, Teece, who has since retired, says it hasn’t gotten any better. As of May 1, more than 13,000 people have died from gun violence in the U.S. this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

To bring attention to the mental health issues that are prevalent in society, Teece helped organize a demonstration by Swords to Plowshares Northeast on Saturday at the First Congregational Church of Southampton. The free event will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine, in the church’s parking lot area.

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“I really want people to know that Southampton’s not too far away from any kind of danger. It doesn’t just happen in Chicago or Detroit, or Uvalde. It could come to Southampton,” she said.

At the forging demonstration, attendees will be invited to assist in the transformation of decommissioned gun barrels into gardening tools and jewelry. The guns are acquired from gun buy-back initiatives. The mission of the Swords to Plowshares Northeast program is to reduce gun violence by converting the weapons of death into tools of life, Teece said.

Patty Desroches, part-time administrator at the church, said the event will be something most people have never seen before. With multiple family members who are personally affected by gun violence, Desroches says the issue continues to be more pervasive.

“I think we’re going to come to a point where everyone will be impacted in some way by gun violence,” she said.

Desroches added that the Southampton Police will also attend the event and provide free gun locks to anyone that is interested. Suicide prevention information and behavioral health resources will also be available.

Live music by Barry Searle and a cookout has also been scheduled.

In addition to the demonstration, the Right Reverend James E. Curry, a retired bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and co-founder of Swords to Plowshares Northeast, will serve as a guest speaker. Curry, a founding member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, is the head of operations and chief blacksmith for Swords to Plowshares Northeast.

The event also includes the creation of an on-site pallet-pollinator garden. Since the community will be gifted a garden tool created at the forge, Teece organized a hands-on event with area Scouts to create the pallet-pollinator garden. Each part of the project will utilize community donations, including compost from Fletcher’s Farm, dirt from Tractor Supply, pallets from Fleury Lumber, additional tools from Home Depot, and plants from Shiels Farm.

“I think that actually having a literal transformation of something that is so toxic that we change it into the gardens that we’re going to create here,” she said. “We end up getting bees, we get butterflies. We get a beautiful garden, and we get food, and we give some away to the community cupboard. It’s a cycle.”

Spring into Southampton

The demonstration coincides with the annual Spring into Southampton event. Earlier in the day, the Mother’s Club will host a flea market from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Women’s Club will host a plant sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., both at Conant Park.

Edwards Public Library is hosting a book and bake sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about Swords to Plowshares, visit s2pnortheast.org.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.]]>