Posted by Doreen Higgins on May 22, 2017
On May 17th we listened to Jill Cheeks, and her associate, Chrystal Commodore, tell us of the work they do in helping to ameliorate, or avoid, conflict in a variety of places and organizations in our society.  Jill Cheeks is the Executive Director of the Mediation Center; she is a Georgia registered Civil, Domestic and Domestic Violence Mediator with over 25 years’ experience.
The Mediation Center has a basic objective of cutting the emotional and financial costs of disputes; it is a 30 year old non-profit whose work is done by trained volunteers, handling 1100 cases per year. Jill thanked her sponsors who help fund the work, including Rotary clubs, SCCPS, the City of Savannah, Chatham County, and the United Way.

So what are these conflicts that need mediation? Unfortunately, they are legion. They include cases referred by organizations, by community and Chatham County Courts; civil and domestic disputes in magistrate, probate, and superior courts. Mediation offered helps families develop lasting and effective parenting plans. Jill went on to describe the Family Law Resource Center, offering access to justice where needed, for questions, forms, guardianship, fatherhood, custody, legitimation, contempt, name change, child support, separation, and many more legal issues.

Chrystal told us about conflict in schools. She works with about 30 schools; peer mediation is used as much as possible and students considered suited to the task are trained in peer mediation. In 2016-2017, 265 mediations were conducted and 375 students were trained to mediate.

Jill continued her presentation with a description of the price and consequences of conflict. There are four types: intra- and inter-personal, and intra- and inter-group. Conflict can, and does, lead to mental and physical stress, absenteeism, loss of productivity, lost opportunities, financial loss, and declining trust and morale. She summarized the services offered by the Mediation Center: strategic sessions, retreats, workshops, employer/employee mediation, and business/vendor disputes. She thanked her sponsors for their vital support and reminded us that the Mediation Center needs volunteers to help with its work.