SEBRING — It was a warm and sunny day out at Mary Toney Park in the Washington Heights area of Sebring on Saturday. The Highlands County NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) held their second Community Care Day.
The NAACP focuses on advocacy and inclusion with equal rights for everyone. They were founded in 1909 and are actively involved in leading the fight for equality and justice in this country.
The event was open to the public and included a lot of educational information, music and some great food! Dario Dixby and Tyrone Clark, with D Brothers Tree Services, were the grill masters of the day. You could smell the ribs as soon as you arrived at the park.
Susie Johnson, with the NAACP, said the opening prayer. “We ask that you continue to bless us all, praise God. We are grateful and thankful you have brought us all together today.”
“These events geared to the entire family,” said Angel Wiggins, president of the Highlands County NAACP. “Today is all about our community.”
“It really does take a village to raise a child and bring this community together, said Roxie McMillion with the NAACP. “I will be here to help provide support and we will make a difference together.”
The Highlands County Sheriff’s Department has a strong presence in this community. Many who attended are with the COPS ADAPT Program.
“COPS stands for Community Orientated Police Services. It’s really COPS ADAPT. ADAPT stands for Achieving Diversity and Public Trust,” said Lt. Tyrone Tyson.
“We go out into the community and reach out providing education and regaining trust. We’re all trying to get back ownership of our community. We’re working to restore the relationships and identify new ways to reach out to each other.”
“We’re here to reach out into the community,” said Wiggins. “We want to get the message out. This park serves over 400 children and it has no water fountain and no rest room. We received a commitment 30 days ago from the CRA to work on $50,000 of improvements. Changes will be made and this is just the beginning!”
This is an amazing milestone in their journey towards revitalizing this neighborhood. It is the result of hard work and dedication of many.
In order to help young people get a head start after graduation from high school there were a number of organizations that offered information and/or job openings.
Some of the included iMAD (I Make a difference), SFSC’s Sari Crews (GED Prep and ESOL classes), Gloria Forces with Peace River Victim Services, Positive Medical Transport and the NAACP. Attendees also had the opportunity to register to vote.
The playground area afforded children the opportunity to swing and play on the gym equipment while there were plenty of outside games and even face painting offered by iMAD.
County Commissioner District 2 (which includes the Washington Park area), Kathy Rapp, was a special guest who attended the event.
“I’m very excited to be here and want to show we have a grass roots presence. I’ve lived here all my life and have learned so much while I have been here today. Thanks so much to everyone.”