By LINDA M. LINONIS
The idea that it takes a village to raise and teach children is exemplified in an Easter celebration project promoted by Valley residents and the business and religious communities.
A community-service Gospel celebration relating to the meaning of Easter is planned from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 19 at Arlington Heights Recreation Center, 801 Park Ave.
The event is geared to 3- to 12-year-olds, who are grouped according to age. Children must be registered on forms available at Arlington Heights rec center, 330-747-3299, and Miz. James’ Hollywood Hairdressers, 1542 Belmont Ave., 330-747-4806. Registration deadline is April 2. A parent must accompany a child; Valley children are invited to participate. Each child will receive an Easter basket.
On Monday, event promoters gathered to discuss the project, supported by donations from the community and businesses.
Aphynna James is chairwoman, and Curtiss Campbell is co-chairman. “The Gospel celebration has been going on in the community for about 20 years,” James said. “It’s made possible by businesses and concerned parents.”
Last year, the event was at Rockford Village and attracted about 200 children. James noted the celebration rotates among various community centers. James also represents Holiday Hairdressers, a business that supports the activity.
“It’s an outreach in the community and a positive event,” James said. She added the activity includes games and crafts but also has a serious purpose of sharing the real meaning of Easter.
That’s where Pastor Shawn Barnett of Faith Temple comes in. Young adults and youth from his church will entertain as mimes, with music and in a skit. There also will be a Scripture message.
“It’s a way to talk about Jesus and his Resurrection,” Pastor Barnett said. “We want the children to know Easter isn’t just about eggs and candy.”
Mike Ziccardi, manager of Walgreens on Belmont Avenue, said the store has been involved in the Easter celebration project for three years. He said people can buy candy or small toys at the store and donate them to the project. “The store donates jelly beans,” he said.
Ziccardi said the store is part of a corporation but individual stores “are part of the community and want to help the community.”
“It’s about kids,” Ziccardi said, adding “it’s giving them positive experiences because they are our future.”
Campbell reiterated that idea. “It’s all about the children and teaching them about Jesus and the meaning of Easter.”
Bob Burke, park director for the city, said he was “grateful the city could partner in a community project with positive impact.” “It’s a blessing and great collaboration,” he added.
Annette Williams, a volunteer at the rec center, is among community residents involved. In her second year with the project, she is a team leader for the 3- and 4-year-olds.
Williams, who described herself as an advocate for children, said the event gives children something to take with them in the form of a spiritual message and crafts that serve as a reminder of the activity.
Karen Jackson works with the 7- and 8-year-olds and has volunteered for three years. “I like helping people,” she said.
Rebecca Smith, a volunteer on the kitchen committee, said the event offers children a safe and positive activity.