By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Have you even attended a ‘block party’? Typically, they are neighborhood gatherings where people MAKE time one afternoon or evening to spend time together and everyone brings a pot luck covered dish. Sometimes, though, this idea can be altered somewhat … expanded upon … and that is going to happen in Shinnston this Saturday!
Attendees are not limited to one particular neighborhood; everyone in the community that day is invited to attend … and furthermore, you don’t have to bring anything. This family-friendly activity will include free food, free Bingo (with prizes!), free face painting for the kids, and free entertainment! Hosted by the Shinnston Lions Club, the “community” block party will be held at the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department from noon until 3 p.m. on Saturday, August 6th. This is all part of a plan developed through the Lions of Harrison County.
Wayne Worth, president of the Adamston Lions Cub and founder of the Block Party initiative, said these block parties are now in their second year in the county and were developed with a two-fold purpose – 1) to get Lions Clubs to come together to help other Lions throughout the county gain potential members, and 2) to acquaint people with local service organizations and what they do within the individual communities.
“The fact is that in today’s world, families get so busy they often have little time to spend together let alone become connected within their communities,” Worth stated. “Often, people do have a desire to get involved, though; they just don’t know how to do it, so this gives them the opportunity to meet others who serve their communities and find out what they do or where they might need help.”
Worth noted that there are 14 active Lions Clubs in Harrison County – the most of any county in the state of West Virginia! This means that Lions, working together as one entity, have the prospect of inspiring others to join their “team” and make a great impact on their communities. He has witnessed it happening!
“Individual Lions Clubs within Harrison County host these events in their communities, and we try to hold about five a year. Last year, one club got three new members from their event and have four more potentials from their event this year!” he said. “Even if we get just a few new people to become part of our service organization, each one counts and can help change a community.”
He further explained that, sadly, many clubs have aging members who may be no longer able to “serve” and participate in club projects as they were accustomed to doing. And because Lions “serve” in so many ways – not just on the local level, but globally – it is vitally important that their service remain ongoing ….. so new members are always needed and welcomed with open arms.
“There is never enough good news,” Wayne added, “but good things are happening! We want to encourage folks to get involved with the good deeds of service organizations who make such a difference in the world we live in. These block parties are a great way to accomplish that, but it takes time. Block parties are seeing growth, though. We saw it, for example, in Clarksburg recently when a block party was staged to unveil a community garden on Monticello Avenue. People worked together as a team to accomplish something wonderful – and they celebrated together when it became a reality. This kind of teamwork made a positive impact in their neighborhood, and people became friends as they worked together.”
Wayne Worth is no stranger to service work. Since the June flooding that ravaged the southern part of the Mountain State, that is where you are likely to find him every weekend … getting muddy, helping to remove furniture from a home that has been devastated, handing out meals, and sometimes just giving a comforting hug to those whose lives now have to be rebuilt.
Why is he such an advocate for service work? His life story is the reason for his genuine love for service. Although born in Connecticut, Wayne will tell you emphatically that is a tried and true West Virginian now and will be for the rest of his life. As a young boy, he spent four years in foster care before being adopted by a family in West Virginia at the age of 11. Everything responsible for making him the man he is today came from that West Virginia upbringing.
“I gained a real family in West Virginia and I became part of the community. Good things happened to me because I was cared about by many good people here in West Virginia, and although I can never fully repay them for all they did for me, I CAN pay it forward. That’s what I’m doing; I have devoted my heart to West Virginia and its people. I call myself a born-again West Virginian and I will NEVER live anywhere else but here. I have traveled throughout our great state and I firmly believe that there is no other place in the U.S. where loving our neighbors is so prevalent. It is a great thing to serve others – like Lions do – and sometimes we need to be reminded that the beauty in dollar signs,” he explained.
In Worth’s estimation – from personal experience – family and community are distinct positives, and that is why he wants to see such importance reflected there.
“Community Block Parties are just one way to offer folks that connection with their communities. We realize that it’s not easy for many people to get out to meetings, so these parties are a way to help shed some light on what area service organizations do … and maybe they will take part even if it is just to help with a project here and there – even if meeting attendance does not fit in their schedules,” he continued.
Progress never comes about overnight and may take years to develop, but every small step helps toward growing stronger, more vibrant communities. Seeing the Community Block Parties grow is one of those small steps toward that end.
“Typically the Lions of Harrison County’s block parties brought an attendance of about 150 people at each event we held last year,” Worth noted. “Our numbers are down somewhat this year – perhaps because it’s been over 90 degrees for most of them! But we are hoping that this Saturday’s event in Shinnston will complement the City-Wide Yard Sale activity that will be going on that same day. We encourage everyone in the area that day to stop by, enjoy themselves, and get to know some of the people wearing Lions shirts and vests. Find out what they do and how you might be able to help them make a difference in your community by joining their team.”
Remember, at this block party, you don’t have to bring a thing. Kids can enjoy free face painting, enjoy free Bingo games,have some free hot dogs, hamburgers, and cookout food. Singer/songwriter Holly Turkovich of Shinnston will accompany herself on guitar and offer musical entertainment of different genres – from some title cover songs of other artists to some of her own original music.
Lions Clubs throughout Harrison County have donated to the Community Block Party initiative, which provides the funding for everything being FREE at these events. Parties have been hosted in 2016 by the Adamston Lions, Stonewood Lions, West Milford Lions, and now the Shinnston Lions.
“I, along with the Shinnston Lions Club, particularly want to thank the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department for being so gracious to allow us to use their facility on Saturday,” Worth concluded. “We hope everyone will stop by and enjoy this fun activity. Meet and enjoy the company of your neighbors, and perhaps get to know those who are serving your community. Perhaps you’ll find that you have a desire to become part of their team!”