BY DEBBIE PAGE
Fifth Street Ministries’ back-to-school event on Saturday afternoon at Alex Cooper Park featured a parade, festival, and health fair to assist South Statesville children and their families.
The parade along Wilson Lee Boulevard that kicked off the event included Statesville Police Department vehicles, a Statesville Fire Department truck with Sparky the Fire Dog, the Salvation Army, and members of the Statesville High School Greyhounds cheer squad.
After the parade, Fifth Street Executive Director Michele Knapp welcomed residents to the event. Police Chief David Addison and City Council member Doris Allison also made opening remarks.
At the festival, folks enjoyed music, local vendor booths, inflatables, face painting, agency health and wellness information tents, a free lunch, and sno-cones and cotton candy.
School age attendees received backpacks, 100 of which were donated as a joint effort by Hexpol Compounding and the Salvation Army. The Cove Church also donated school supplies, and Faith Baptist Church donated 30 backpacks as well.
In an interview, Knapp thanked Lake Norman Realty for providing the bounce house, craft activities, and frozen treats for the kids. The Cove Church also provided an inflatable and donated the event volunteer T-shirts.
Grill 4 God Ministries cooked chicken dinners and hot dogs for the crowd, and Food Lion was also a partner for the event.
“We also received financial support from community members that helped with the costs involved with the event,” Knapp said,
“This is the first year doing a community event of this size, and we have been planning this since April. It didn’t start out this big, but the more support we received, the bigger the event grew.
“Today was a great success, and we hope to make this an annual event. Now that we have the first year behind us, we have learned what works and doesn’t work, and the next one will be even better.”
“We just want to bring the community together. We love being a part of this community, and we want to have a good time and support each other,” Knapp concluded.
Chief Addison said this event was important for many reasons. “It allows the community to come out and see services that are available that they normally wouldn’t have access to.”
“The second thing is that it allows us to interact. Building communities is the number one thing for us in the Statesville Police Department. The Statesville Fire Department is also here, and they have done a phenomenal job.”
“All of us are working together to build stronger communities, and making sure our children have something to do is very important to me,” added Addison.
Referencing the recent shooting death of 8-year-old Ah’Miyahh Howell and the serious injury of her 7-year-old cousin Tariq Lowery, Addison said, “We want to keep people energized and get more people involved. This is exactly what we need to heal and to move forward.”
Addison said in the past four years, Statesville had 15 murders and 39 people arrested in relation to those murders.
“None of those cases have gone to trial,” she said. “When we’re looking at reducing crime, we’re looking at how we get people who’ve been sitting in jail two or three years with no bond and get them to go to trial and get some of our violent offenders out of our communities.”
“Until we are looking at that aspect of crime, us arresting is not going to solve any problems. We’re going to continue to arrest, but we need more than just arrests. We need to have court dates, we need to have a trial, we need to have some of these people committing violent crimes taken out of our community.”
Addison urges people to get involved.
“Make friends with somebody you normally wouldn’t make friends with. Adopt a family. There’s so many things we can do,” he said.
The SPD recently had a summer camp week because “we want to make sure kids have outlets. We need to create another outlet for a child because if they’re out here all summer with nothing to do; unfortunately, they may make a mistake, commit a crime, and that’s not the way they should be spending their summers.”
Fifth Street’s Lynn Coleman, who was the lead event planner, just wanted the community to get together for an afternoon of fun. The event gathered health and community resources together for easy access to attendees and helped kids get ready for school.
Coleman said event partners included Food Lion, G4G Ministries, Hexpol Compounding Company, Lake Norman Realty, Salvation Army, The Cove Church, and Ted and Kelli Vance.