By SARAH HUFFMAN

REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE BRONX Community Health Network distribute housing, food and health information to attendees at the Dancing in Unity fair held September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Friends of Devoe Park (FODP) hosted a “Dancing in Unity Fair” on Saturday September 18th at Devoe Park, located in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx. The event included a makeup artist, animal balloon artists, a DJ, food provided by Ms. Geneva’s 50/50, an ice cream truck sponsored by Fordham Toyota, and a variety of lawn activities, games and crafts for children that were organized by the City Parks Department.

Earl Evans, one of the balloon performers hired for the event, said the kids really love to play with the balloons and keep coming back to his tent for more.

CHILDREN ENJOY Giant Connect Four game at Dancing in Unity on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

The event was also educational for adults, with the Bronx Community Health Network (BCHN) providing information on housing, access to food, SNAP benefits, health services, chronic disease and more. Verona Lee-Alcid, a BCHN community health worker, said people come to their tables all day and that she and her colleagues also handed out flyers about the network’s own services.

Pilar Maschi is a member of the City Parks Foundation, which is part of the Partnerships for Parks organization, and was one of the organizers of the fair. As noted, Maschi has led the ongoing efforts to beautify the nearby aqueduct promenade, among other projects. She said the Dancing in Unity event was held to kick off the new school year and provide activities for children in the area.

ANNA VASQUEZ-HOWARD is handing out free books donated by the United Teachers’ Federation during the Dancing in Unity fair held on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

To this end, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was present, with PS 55 and its director, Luis Torres, to donate school supplies, including books and satchels filled with goodies, as part of a return to reveal . The other sponsors were Helmsley Grant, Capacity Fund Grant and Paul Pevsner who donated $ 250 in cash.

True to its theme, the event also included dancing, with salsa lessons given by instructor Frank Muhel, who also performed for the crowd.

REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE BRONX Community Health Network distribute housing, food and health information to attendees at the Dancing in Unity Fair on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Rachel Miller-Bradshaw, a founding member of FODP, who acted as emcee that day, said the fair was to show appreciation for the community and to unify everyone through the arts. She said she was happy with the turnout, even though the group did not publicize the event as much as they would have liked. Miller-Bradshaw said FODP members knew they would get a decent turnout anyway because the area near the park is densely populated.

“We’re just bringing the community together,” she said. Norwood News. “This park really needed this non-profit group [FODP] and I’m just happy to be a founding member, ”she added.

CHILDREN LINE up at the Balloon Animal Table at the Dancing in Unity Fair on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Like Miller-Bradshaw, three other members of FODP are also board members of the adjacent Fordham Hill Owners Corporation, located at 1 Fordham Hill Oval, also in Fordham Manor. They are Michelle Centeno, Myrna Calderon and John Howard. They say they are doing their best to keep the park group going and are encouraging their neighbors and other residents of the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation to get involved in the local community.

As reported earlier this year, Assembly Member Victor Pichardo and District Chief Yudelka Tapia, both representing the 86th AD, co-hosted an event honoring various mothers for their service to the community in the nearby neighborhood of University Heights, in honor of Mother’s Day.

CHILDREN WAIT WAITING to have their faces painted at the Dancing in Unity Fair on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Among those honored at this event were Miller Bradshaw, who is also president of Northwest Bronx Democrats for Change, and Calderon, a member of the Bronx Community Board 7. They were recognized for their individual contributions to the local community, as well as residents. locals, Kpoto Kpana, Angela Salazar, Elaine Grays Watts.

Miller Bradshaw went on to explain that FODP is a non-profit organization that was formed in 2018 because Devoe Park had been labeled a high-risk park.

FRANK MUHEL TEACHES a salsa class to attendees of Dancing in Unity on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Since then, the group has strived to make it a safe and clean space for the community. She said that throughout the pandemic, FODP members continued to work together, despite the risk and uncertainty everyone faced at the time. “We are satisfied with the work we are doing, because since we were initiated and organized, we see a real improvement in this park and it is not only in terms of cleanliness, but safety”, she declared. noted.

For his part, Howard and his wife, Anna Vasquez-Howard, were busy distributing books and supplies to the children that day. “The kids love it,” Vasquez-Howard said, as her husband sounded he loved her too.

A previous photo from Friends of Devoe Park
Photo courtesy of Friends of Devoe Park

Howard said the fair was one of the biggest events organized by the FODP to date, adding that the organization hopes to promote the well-being of the park and engage attendees in the main purpose of the FODP.

“[It’s] make this park more responsive to the needs of the neighborhood, [it] the care and attention he needs, ”he said. “It was quite developed in a lot of places and there are bad areas that are poorly managed. He needs loving and tender care, ”he added.

JOHN HOWARD, a Friends of Devoe Park member, sits next to a table of donated school backpacks, before handing them out at the Dancing in Unity fair held on September 18, 2021 in Devoe Park in the section Fordham Manor in the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Were also present that day, in support of the FODP, the deputy José Rivera (AD 78), the commissioner of the Bronx Parks, Iris Rodriguez-Rosa, the city councilor Vanessa Gibson (CD 16) who is the Democratic presidential candidate from the Borough of the Bronx, and Democratic Candidate for District 14 City Council, Pierina Sanchez,

Sanchez said she grew up playing Devoe Park and was happy to see the community having fun. “I think that’s the best part of the community, right? ” she said. “We’re so diverse and happy and we love to dance, and we love music, so it really brings it all together and, you know, in a tough time, it’s kind of a positive for the community to participate,” she mentioned.

CHILDREN RECEIVE FREE ice cream from the Bronx Toyota sponsored ice cream truck at the Dancing in Unity fair held on September 18, 2021 at Devoe Park in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx.
Photo by Sarah Huffman

Sanchez had set up a table for attendees to share information on the benefits of the stimulus, voter registration and COVID-19 vaccines. “It’s really just a resource fair that tries to build community,” she said. “I just think it’s really important to give as much support as possible to groups that are trying to bring out the most positive things in our community. You know, just unify the space and make people feel their dignity is respected. “

Síle Moloney contributed to this story.

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