WILKES-BARRE — A good-sized crowd visited Public Square on Saturday for the ninth annual Drug-Free Block Party sponsored by the United We Stand Divided We Fall nonprofit community support organization.
They were treated to great food, entertainment, motivational speakers, music and dancing, and an upbeat message of hope for the future.
Event founder and president of United We Stand Darlene Magdalinski said the event was not about raising money but rather more about creating awareness within the neighborhoods of Wilkes-Barre of the challenges local youths face.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Magdalinski said. “We are working to find what we need to do to get back to that for the children. It’s the way to stop them from taking drugs, fighting and shooting each other,“ she said.
Magdalinski originated the block party as a way to raise money to help local community organizations that were facing hard times because of a lack of funding. She is pleased with how popular the event has become.
She thanked Mayor Tom Leighton and the city for providing the Square and other services, state Rep. Eddy Day Pashinski, and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, which paid for the event food. Several local businesses, church groups, individuals also participated by volunteering and donating, she added.
Harry Hamilton, event volunteer, said Magdalinski’s organization does a great job attacking the “apathy and waning empathy” in local neighborhoods where children grow up exposed to crime and poverty.
“Organizations like this do the necessary outreach,” he said. “Each one reach one, each one teach one,” he said.
“The only way to make progress on the streets is through dialogue,” he said.
Hamilton added many organizations providing this type of service are facing funding problems and need to coordinate their efforts. “They can’t do enough because of the absence of funding. They need to unite,” he said.
Shivaun O’Donnell, who worked hard to promote the event and worked there as well, said the number of people who attend the block party shows how the community cares about its children.
“We care about our kids and we want them to be OK,” she said.
She lauded Magdalinski’s grass-roots efforts over the last few years making a small community event into a large-scale party supported by county and city officials.
“The people understand the kids are good and need opportunities for their future,” she said.
Magdalinski stressed one of the biggest challenges locally is bridging the gaps that exist among the various ethnic groups in local communities.
“There is no unity without diversity and no diversity without unity,” she said.