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Families spend Memorial Day/Weekend with food, fun, fellowship, parade, and TSA graduation

 

By La Prensa Staff

 

TOLEDO, May 25, 2019: If Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer, families in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan had plenty of ways to celebrate the season.

 

On May 25th, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) tried something new—reaching out to its neighbors with a first-ever picnic at Golden Rule Park. FLOC staff welcomed about 50 people under a tent on a warm afternoon, while grilling hot dogs and serving a potluck lunch.

Baldemar Velásquez and Sesario Durán.

 

 

“We’re going to make it an annual event and we’re going to invite just the public, the citizens of this neighborhood,” explained Baldemar Velásquez, FLOC founder and president. “We’re going to put the ‘neighbor’ back in the ‘hood,’ as the motto of our Homies Union. Involve the youth, bring their parents and kids, little brothers and sisters, just offer a free picnic.”

 

FLOC staff and volunteers passed out leaflets throughout the neighborhood inviting families to the picnic. The migrant farmworkers union is encouraged by the response from neighbors.

 

“We get to know each other. There’s a young man who lives just down the street. Throwing a football, never knew he was there and he never knew we were here,” said Velásquez. “Getting to know each other. When you get to know each other, you get to know and learn about things and people. You put more empathy into people’s situations that live near you and try to bring the community together.”

 

FLOC staff took some time during the picnic to introduce themselves and talk about their roles.

 

“We want to bring the outside world attention to this neighborhood,” Velásquez told the gathering. “We want to make it better. We want to make it safe so families can raise their kids. Whatever little we have, we’re going to share with this neighborhood.”

 

He explained past and present activities and campaigns, including the effort to install LED lighting in the Old South End to reduce crime and keep kids safe. Now the campaign has gone city-wide, with an emphasis of ensuring poorer neighborhoods get the new lighting first. The goodwill effort did meet with some mistrust along the way, as organizers have expected.

 

“We do. But we talk about it. We bring the humanity into the discussion, so you can see the person you might have had a misconceived notion about, some clarification,” said Velásquez. “For instance, I invited the police department, but asked them to leave their guns at home, so people will see them as a human being and not a law enforcement officer and get to know one another. (We’ve encouraged police as part of the code of conduct) to take an hour away from their shift to just go knocking on doors and introduce themselves, get to know them by name.”

 

That relationship-building on a personal level, almost the equivalent of community policing, can help rebuild trust with neighborhood residents, according to the FLOC president—especially if they’re on a first-name basis instead of ‘Hey you!’ shouted from a patrol car.

 

 

The Believe Center

 

The annual Keep Sports Alive carnival at the Believe Center saw a good Saturday afternoon crowd before a line of storms interrupted the rides, games, and activities. Organizers admit they’ve had to battle spring storms ever since the annual carnival started several years ago.

 

“We’re really hoping the rain holds off the rest of the weekend so we can have a great carnival,” said Elaina Hernández, whose El Corazón de México Ballet Folklorico dance troupe gave a Saturday performance. “It’s nice to have something in the neighborhood.”

 

In addition to the standard carnival rides and food booths, the Believe Center brought in Glovation to entertain the crowds with hula hoops and lights, hosted hula hoop and lip sync contests on Kids Day. The carnival proceeds go back into the center’s programming in order to keep it “low cost and affordable” for families, according to Ms. Hernández.

 

Inside the center, Junior Olympics boxing matches kept fans on their feet as young athletes gave their best inside the ring. The two simultaneous events ensured a solid crowd and attracted new participants to the center’s array of youth programming, as well as provided boxers and their families something to do between boxing matches.

 

“We do draw folks from the neighborhood who don’t normally know about our programs,” said Tonya Durán, Believe Center executive director. “Today I met two families that didn’t even know the Believe Center existed. I got to explain the mission of sports along with coping, survival skills taught to our kids all under one umbrella.”

 

The center has now developed a wide portfolio of sports and other programming, including flag and tackle football, basketball, baseball, boxing, tennis, soccer, cheerleading and dance. In June, the center will open its Believe Academy Daycare, which is meant to round out meeting all the needs of families and kids in the neighborhood. The hope is to add an occupational therapist within the next year to add further programming.

 

The Keep Sports Alive fundraising campaign began as an annual raffle 13 years ago, but was converted to a carnival seven years ago, “because it was easier” to manage, said Ms. Durán. The event likely will be rebranded to the Believe Center Carnival next year for simplicity.

 

Earlier that day, Lucas County entertained a Memorial Day parade in downtown Toledo. The Toledo School for the Arts also graduated its 1,000-plus student in a ceremony at the Valentine Theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

   

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/28/19 22:03:10 -0700.

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