By Elena Trueworthy
The North-Oak neighborhood volunteers never stop working. In a packed room at the Oak St. Police Substation on Monday night, members of the NRZ welcomed Fire Chief Ronalter to share information and respond to questions by the group. A good portion of the time, however, was also spent going over the final details of the annual Willow Street Park Community Day to be held this Saturday, July 29, 2017 from 12:30pm – 3:00pm. Led by the Friends of Willow Street Park, the event this year will honor Bill Harris, a man of faith who dedicated his life to serving others and made a positive impact on the neighborhood residents especially the youth. Lead organizer of the event Pastor Dana Smith states, “We wanted to celebrate the life and work of Bill. He and his selfless acts were very important to a lot of people. I also want to thank Chris Montes from the New Britain Local Area Interagency Service Team for making this all possible.”
Police Chief James Wardwell speaking at the Willow Street Park Community Day
The Willow Street Park Community Day gives people a chance to come together, learn about resources, have fun, and get to know each other. It is also an opportunity for volunteers to give back. Norma Ortiz is example of such volunteer. Knowing that there are homeless kids in the neighborhood she reached out to the McDonald’s in NewBrite Plaza to see if they could help. With much enthusiasm the owner of McDonald’s Keith Santacroce jumped right on board. Together they organized a night where a percentage of the proceeds benefit the children of the North-Oak neighborhood. Norma recalls how “Keith and the whole McDonald’s staff were amazing. They did all they could do to welcome us into their business and promote the fundraising event. It was a major success.” Norma has already started using the money raised to help the homeless children from the North-Oak neighborhood. This Saturday she will have a table with basic needs supplies (shampoo, soap, socks, and toys for the kids) to hand out to families who need them. “I want to help. It’s very hard when kids and their families don’t have their own place to live. I’m hoping these supplies help whatever type of situation they are in.”
There are other volunteer such as Norma who share a commitment to seeing more positive opportunities for the people living in the North-Oak neighborhood. “I am very active throughout New Britain, but I also want to make sure that it feels good for me to come home at night to my own neighborhood. Every person regardless of where they live should feel safe and happy in their home” states Marie Bachand, Chair of the North-Oak NRZ, “and that is why we partner to help out at this great event.”
Other partners include CCSU, Neighborhood Housing Services, New Britain Police and Fire Department, National Guard, New Life II Ministries, HRA, North Oak NRZ, and Men of the round table Group. Volunteers urge people who want to help to get involved with the North-Oak NRZ that meets every 4th Monday at 7:00pm at the Oak Street Substation. For more information, please call Pastor Dana Smith at 860-371-8271.
Editor’s note: This article was published prior to the Community Day and the photos and video were of the event, itself, and were added after the event.