“Rocking the Block to bring Woodlawn together”
Block parties can be very valuable for communities, and Sunshine Gospel Ministries outdid itself this past summer. Through a partnership with the Soulful Chicago Book Fair and the first Woodlawn Food Truck festival, Sunshine presented an event like no other to the neighborhood.
On July 16, people of all ages got together to have a good time, support more than 70 local authors and enjoy delicious food. The event attracted members from Sunshine´s programs along with visitors to the community.
Sunshine Gospel Ministries has been helping its community since 1905. The hard work the organization has done over more than a hundred years was rewarded earlier this year when it was named one of 2017´s Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities grant recipients. Sunshine leveraged the funding to help expand the book fair into a block party.
Pastor Pete Blodgett of Sunshine Gospel Ministries recalls greeting a neighborhood woman whom he had never seen as she was having a good time with her children. She represented the type of family that Sunshine is trying to reach, Blodgett says.
“What we did was greater than just one block,” he says, “and it was invaluable in strengthening the neighborhood and those bonds between people.”
Sunshine´s regular programs focus on children and young adults, but Executive Director Joel Hamernick says one of the outcomes of these kinds of activities is the meaningful and productive interaction between kids and adults. “Summer events do that in a really unique and remarkable way,” says Hamernick.
Sunshine Enterprises Director Ethan Daly says the movement and excitement this brings to a block that normally lacks commercial activity attracts more attention to its programs and local businesses. The team hopes to make the event bigger and better next year. “I want to bring this to Woodlawn to show that the neighborhood and the people here are valued and that the power of the written word should be accessible to everyone, of every age,” says Daly.
Beyond a block party, Sunshine also tries to keep its community engaged through physical activities for elementary and high school students several times a week, according to Sunshine´s high school Program Coordinator Donnell Williams. Williams says Sunshine’s kids and neighbors are invited to this program, where they take over the block for a couple of hours and have activities. He says the goal is to give them as much exposure as possible and to keep them busy.
Raquel Venado is a writer with Rudd Resources.