Cookout Begins Series of Events to Make Summer Fun and Safe
June 28, 2011 [Philadelphia]—It seems that even Mother Nature wanted the summer of 2011 to get off to a peaceful start. Despite forecasts of possible violent thunderstorms Mother Nature did an about face and provided clear blue skies for the more than 1,000 people that gathered at Stinger Square in South Philadelphia for the Neighborhood to Neighborhood Summer of Peace Kickoff Cookout on Saturday, June 25.
Families, community organizations, neighbors and elected officials filled the spacious park for a day of non-stop food, fun and music.
The event, which at least for this year will replace the annual N2N Labor Day weekend festival, was presented by state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D-8), Youth Action and Peace Not Guns.
As community organizations charged with promoting youth development and curbing violence continue to sustain severe budget cuts amid a dour economy, Williams suspended the N2N event and instead re-directed funds to community-based projects.
As part of the Summer of Peace initiative, Williams awarded some 50 mini-community investment grants ranging from $300 to $11,000 to support programs at grassroots organizations and other agencies including the 12 Delaware County borough police departments and four Philadelphia Police Department precincts in his 8th district.
“While the dollar amount of some of these mini-grants may be modest, the investment in our youth is invaluable,” said Williams. “These grassroots programs steer our young people away from violence and help to make our communities better. There is no magic bullet. It takes the effort of all of us working together to effect the change we need. I invite everyone, individuals, my fellow legislators and the business community to vigorously support these programs with both their time and money, to invest in our youth. We cannot afford to lose them.”
The day was wall-to-wall fun with something for everyone. Toddlers frolicked in Moonbounces, teenagers tossed Frisbees and footballs and adults relaxed and everyone enjoyed a variety of free food including hamburgers, hot dogs, pretzels and cold drinks. Many joined in the fun at various arts and crafts tables that dotted the park. A deejay played music that got the young and young at heart up and dancing. Costumed characters mesmerized children and thrilled their parents.
Later in the day many turned their attention to the stage for a special recognition ceremony. Sen. Williams, joined by other elected officials and community leaders, honored members of community organizations and law enforcement officials, including Officer Joe Young of the Philadelphia’s 12th Police District. Young was the winner of this year’s Fencl Award, given annually to the city’s outstanding police officer.
“These are the people that do the hard work every day, said Williams. “They are the unsung heroes who make a difference.”
Jillian Patricia Pirtle, Miss Black Pennsylvania 2011, capped off the ceremony with a stirring rendition of God Bless America.
Calvin Johnson who, along with his brother Malik Johnson, is co-founder of the grassroots Weekend of Peace coalition was ecstatic about the grant his organization received.
“The grant will allow us to reach more children and possibly expand our activities,” said Johnson. “We are grateful that Senator Williams understands and supports what we do.”
The fun and tranquil atmosphere of the cookout stood in stark contrast to a particularly violent weekend in the region. Several people including two children were shot in North Philadelphia in separate incidents while Darby Borough and Darby Township declared states of emergency following a five-day period in which seven people were shot.
“The recent spike in violence in the city and Darby Borough are a clear indication of the need for these organizations especially during challenging economic times,” said Williams. “Imagine our communities without them.”
For more information about Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, the Summer of Peace initiative or the organizations who received mini grants, please visit www.senatoranthonyhwilliams.com or call (215) 492-2980.