Churches plan block party in response to violence

Responding to tensions from recent violence in Dunkirk, including the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl, some pastors in the city want everyone to get together for a peaceful good time.

“A bunch of churches are going to be getting together. We are putting on an activity, a block party event,” said Vern Seekings, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church. The event is planned for Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, in Washington Park. It has a permit from the city.

“We’re going to have a bouncy house, some other games — shooting a basketball, Kan-Jam. They’re going to have food: hot dogs and juice and stuff like that,” Seekings said.

“It’s mainly a block party for all the people. We thought after the stabbing, we could do something to make a difference,” he added.

Jim Bailey, event coordinator and pastor of the United Methodist Church, said everyone in the Washington Park neighborhood will receive flyers in the mail asking them to attend.

Bailey said the coordination between the churches was a natural offshoot of last year’s event in Washington Park celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Methodist church building, where they also pitched in.

This year, “we got together and said ‘Let’s do this essentially as a neighborhood party to get to know the people and have them get to know us,'” he said. “This is not a thing where we’ve got speakers or anything, we’re just providing games and food to get people together and begin connecting with people.

“We want to do something in response to the violence,” Bailey continued. “We’re trying to connect with families to let them know, things don’t have to be the way they’ve been.”

The churches intend to coordinate Wednesday evening activities throughout the summer in Washington Park for kids and their families. But for now, Bailey just wants everyone to have a nice Saturday in the park.

“This is not a come-on, it’s standalone,” he said. “It’s our gift to the community.”

Seekings noted, “It’s something better to do than maybe getting into trouble or something.”