When Love Works: A Local Approach to Building Healthy Relationships


Relational violence is a public health crisis that often burdens communities of color. The nationwide COVID-19 pandemic led to a wide range of quarantine orders, which had a tremendous impact on relationships of all kinds, placing many under severe strain. Many domestic and gender-based violence advocates anticipated a surge in incidents of relational conflict as an aftereffect of the pandemic. In MAP developments, six sites experienced the highest rates of domestic violence incident reports: 

  • Boulevard
  • Brownsville
  • Butler
  • Castle Hill
  • Patterson, and
  • Van Dyke

In the summer of 2020, the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP) sought a Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise to provide direct service and capacity building for relationship health in the Central Brooklyn and South Bronx neighborhoods; When Love Works Dynamically (WLWD) answered the call.

Building Healthy Relationships

When Love Works Dynamically was co-founded by the husband and wife duo, Elitia and Cullen Mattox, to provide support for intimate, familial, and professional relationships. With expertise in education, psychology, design, and communication, the WLWD team has supported clients nationwide in private, non-profit, and public spaces to develop the necessary tools to thrive in healthy relationships.

Residents from the abovementioned MAP neighborhoods and staff from local organizations that serve these communities participated in the WLWD Healthy Relationships Capacity Training, designed to sharpen the skills to cultivate positive and strong relationships. 

MAP believes in building capacity in local communities to co-create safety and well-being. Investing in residents’ interpersonal and communication skills is paramount to creating stronger relationships in all aspects of life. Through the Healthy Relationships Capacity Training, participants developed the capacity to prevent, identify and respond to unhealthy relationships.

The Healthy Relationships Capacity Training is a free resource for residents from the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and community-based organizations. Due to COVID-19, the training launched virtually in February 2021 and consists of six sessions per cohort: four virtual workshops, one coaching session, and one community activity. Participants receive a range of incentives, including a self-care spa treatment, Metro Card for travel, WLWD SWAG, and a Love Leaders 101 customizable resource kit. Participants learn personal and community competencies to build and maintain healthy relationships, identify and address negative relationships, and acquire culturally relevant tools to support themselves and their communities. They also receive a referral guide to existing local domestic violence support services. 

Through the fierce advocacy of residents who recognize the training as a valuable community resource, WLWD expanded the Healthy Relationships Capacity Training to Polo Grounds Towers in March 2021. WLWD is now on track to train a total of four cohorts across seven MAP developments. 

Adding to the schedule for the Spring 2021 training, WLWD hosted Community Love Days. While observing strict COVID-19 health guidelines, Community Love Day events encouraged fun, in-person interaction to  promote strong community connections. WLWD engaged NeighborhoodStat teams, local partners, and City agencies with food, music, and games and created an environment for participants to share space, resources, and ideas. Through the Community Love Day series, WLWD activated the Roxanne Reid Memorial Garden in Castle Hill Houses, tabled at the Polo Grounds Towers Anti-violence Fair, and volunteered at a Community Clean-up Day at Patterson Houses. WLWD designs a place-based and inclusive approach to community engagement, reducing barriers to domestic violence interventions by building authentic relationships rooted in trust and mutual care.

Measuring Success

In a two-week evaluation of WLWD’s Healthy Relationships Program conducted by the Viney Group, 96% of the participants said they would join another WLWD relationship-building program. Participants credit the program for sharpening their skills in conflict resolution, active listening, reconciliation, and the ability to teach healthy relationships to others.

Participants from the Healthy Relationships Capacity Training table at a community resource fair.
Community Love Day at Castle Hill Houses