I want to live in a community where a two year old boy can run through the woods at a park and not have to worry about being stuck by used needles. I want to live in a community where families are not afraid to take their children to a park after dark because they feel it’s not safe. I want to live in a community where park benches and tables aren’t littered with graffiti and there is no reason to worry about what kids are being exposed to in the middle of the afternoon.
Unfortunately our community is not where I would like it to be YET and I don’t want to be an alarmist because I do believe we live in an amazing community for the most part. There are still parts of our community where people are not able to let their sons and daughters run through the woods for fear of being stuck by a used syringe, not feeling safe in their neighborhood park after dark, and where park benches and tables are littered with graffiti. These concerns were all shared by actual community members at Bagley Park.
There was an incident that happened at Bagley Park during the summer that caught the attention of some Janus Youth outreach workers and some Boys & Girls Club staff members. I was contacted by the Janus Youth Outreach supervisor and also by the Boys & Girls Club Outreach Program manager within days of each other, informing me of the incident. They wanted to do something about it, so we brought it to the Safe Communities Task Force steering committee as well as to our monthly community meeting and requested assistance. There were many people willing to help and we mobilized our community and on Tuesday August 28th we put on a free community BBQ at Bagley Park.
We set up some tents and tables and provided free hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies, soda, and water for anyone who was there at the park. We also had some donated school supplies and gave them out to any kids who needed them. There were also donated books, games, crafts, and bubbles! What’s a community BBQ without bubbles? Oh, and most of us were wearing this shirt!
At one point during the BBQ, there was a group of teens off in the distance and about four of us grabbed some hamburgers, hot dogs, sodas, and water and went over and gave them out. The teens were very appreciative and ended coming over to where we were several times for more food and water before the BBQ was over.
There were lots of smiling faces, school supplies given out, crafts made, bubbles blown, and most importantly perceptions changed!
I’d like to thank all of the Boys & Girls Club staff and SCTF Steering Committee members who helped out, the neighborhood association members who attended, community members who donated money, school supplies and crafts. Your participation is much appreciated!
At our last SCTF monthly community meeting we were discussing ways we could build a stronger community and decided this BBQ would be a start of something bigger. I also challenged everyone at the meeting to share one thing they could do in their own neighborhood to start building a stronger healthier community. Those of you who were at the last meeting leave a comment on this post on what you did and for those of you who weren’t at the last meeting, leave a comment on something you are committed to do in your neighborhood. Also, please join us this Friday from 10-12 at the YWCA to continue the discussion on how we can continue building our community.
The general response from people when we invited them to come and have a free hamburger or hot dog was one of confusion…most people asked, “Who are you guys and why are you doing this?”
Our response was, “We are with the Boys & Girls Club and the Safe Communities Task Force and we are doing this because we care!”
Make it a great day!
The Safe Communities Task Force