The 5th annual South Side Community Block Party was held this past weekend to celebrate neighborhood life in the South End of Hagerstown, Maryland. Keeping public health as a priority, this year’s event featured activities and entertainment available socially distanced in the community and online so that families could participate from the comfort and safety of their home. Upwards of 600 people from the South End participated in at least one activity offered through the event.
The Block Party also provided the right opportunity to unveil the new Bester Community of Hope app available for download on the App Store and Google Play. The app will be available all year long to help navigate life in the time of COVID-19 and feature a monthly calendar of activities, a local resource guide, and information about neighborhood living, strong families, and student supports. For the Block Party, the app was the guide where all the happenings for the day could be found.
It was a chilly start to the day for members of the Hagerstown Artists Group who gathered to touch up the mural on W. Memorial Boulevard. Painted two years ago, the mural had areas that were affected by water seepage. Stephanie Budnicki, a South End neighborhood resident, said, “It’s nice to know that the mural is being cared for and that it’s valued by the community. Thank you so much [for the QR code hunt], the girls had a blast and it reminded me of how beautiful our city is.”
For Our City, a collaborative of local churches, hosted a drive thru food give away and the Maryland Food Bank delivered 250 pre-packaged boxes of fresh produce and pasta to be given out. Additionally, 100 Covid-19 Care Kits were made available by Family HealthCare. For Our City volunteers also loaded boxes into trucks to deliver to neighborhoods for those who lack transportation.
Families could stay home and enjoy listening to children’s books about inclusion, diversity and community being read by local “celebrities” like Dr. Kristen English, Principal at Bester Elementary School, or pick up ingredients and learn from home how to use fresh apples in different recipes at home by watching Ann Shilling, Young Adult Services Librarian at Washington County Free Library, who used their new mobile kitchen.
For those who wanted to get outside for an adventure, the QR code hunt hit the spot! Clues were posted on the BCOH app to the location of ten QR codes hidden along the South End Walking Loop. When a code was found and scanned, the finder was entered to win a prize. When all ten codes were found, the finder was entered to win the grand prize of a work at home station which included a brand new desk, chair, and laptop!
In the afternoon, residents were treated to a livestream concert by legendary international artists The Wailers which included recorded testimonials of local residents, business owners and stakeholders in the South End, as well as native sons The Dobre Brothers. The video, produced in collaboration with Antietam Media titled Celebrate the South End, talked about the benefits of raising a family in the South End, the strengths of the neighborhoods, and the important impact early connections make for children and families. “I love the intermission! It made me tear up with joy how the community came together for the video and it turned out amazing!” responded Lisa Knight, a resident who lives in the Frederick Manor neighborhood.
Celebrate the South End clip (16 minutes):
Once the sun went down, it was time for DJ Kopec to start the Family Night Dance Party on Facebook Live. Kopec, who has been hosting national live stream events at the Quarantine DJ, is also the official DJ for the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders and Under Armor, shouted out to South End people and places while thousands of people from all over the country watched live and heard about all the great things happening in the South End of Hagerstown. At 9:00 pm, he initiated Zambelli Fireworks to wrap up the evening with a spectacular display launched from Municipal Stadium. Most residents in the South End were able to step outside and see the display without leaving home. South End resident Vicky Campanelli commented,” Thank you all for spreading love in the community.”
Bester Community of Hope is a community initiative of San Mar Family & Community Services, focused on strengthening and improving outcomes for families who live in the South End of Hagerstown, Maryland. This effort is made possible by the significant support and collaboration of the Washington County Department of Social Services, and their focus on prevention and upstream efforts as a way to make a collective impact for families. Strategic neighborhood programs and efforts are made possible by philanthropic support from the Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation. For more information about this holistic approach to supporting families and communities, go to www.besterhope.org.