An event in Harrells this Saturday will have free food, live entertainment and a host of other activities — all with the aim of spreading God’s love by promoting unity regardless of race, ethnicity and background.
The aptly-named “Unity in the Community Day,” now in its eighth year, will take place this Saturday, Aug. 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Harrells Town Park.
“It’s food, fun and fellowship complete with video games, inflatables and bingo,” said Unity chairman Charles Strickland. “We have at least 20 churches that participate yearly. The main purpose is to enrich and enhance the lives of every citizen.”
With origins at the town park in the Harrells community, it was the dream of the late Rev. Glenwood Hemmingway, former pastor of Wards Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, to have an event that brought together all people for a day of unity and celebration.
“The late, great Rev. Glenwood Hemmingway was the founder,” Strickland said. “He just wanted to bring everyone of all ethnic groups — Spanish, Caucasian, African-American, Mexican — and that’s what we try to do each year. We try to carry it on and every year we try to grow.”
Complete with a Unity in the Community board and officers, who all meet once a month in an effort to put on the annual day, the event has indeed grown.
“This year’s theme is ‘Togetherness from Diversity,’” said Strickland. “We just try to have a great day. It’s a one-day affair but it takes approximately 12 months to put it together.”
Most of the 20 churches donated approximately $200, and there were other donations from area residents and businesses in food, gas and other implements needed to put on the event — a range of different donors contributing toward uniting the community.
“Every year we have grown. Last year was our best year,” Strickland attested.
Last year’s festivities saw an estimated 500-550 people in attendance. Unity in the Community organizers are hoping for even more this year. The event had long been held in November until last year, when it was moved to the end of August to sidestep any inclement weather situations that might put a damper on the community celebration. The event also has a running agreement with the Harrells park for each fourth Saturday in August.
“Unity,” Strickland said, is an effort to brings together churches, businesses, families and governmental officials for a day of free food, religious fellowship and fun. It was Hemmingway’s belief that the entire community would benefit from networking, regardless of color or cultural differences, and that idea remains steadfast, Strickland noted.
By having a great event through which everyone is included, relationships between the diverse communities of Sampson County can be enriched and strengthened, he said.
“The more and different people we have participate, the better we will be able to bond together and become a more unified community,” the Unity chairman remarked.
That event has often attracted several hundred people, with crowds increasing since the event’s inception.
This year, there will be two or three inflatables, video games for kids, some bingo for the older adults and plenty of other activities, including live music that is scheduled to extend from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“We’re expecting at least 15-20 groups,” said Strickland, noting the groups will include Gospel gruops and solo acts, as well as church choirs.
And the food will be equally abundant.
“We’re not talking about just hot dogs,” he asserted. “We’ll have chicken, fish, string beans and more.”
The Sampson County Health Department is also anticipated to have a huge presence, with a few tents to be set up with a wealth of health information alone.
“The other thing we try to do is improve the community’s healthy living habits,” the Unity chairman explained. “The Health Department will have two or three tents. They’ll have information galore. Anyone who needs any information associated with their health, all they need to do is come.”
While the Unity committee was hoping to have T-shirts and hats available for attendees this year, they will definitely have them for the ninth annual event next year. Strickland and others are hoping to have more people participating in the cause by then as well. So far, the event has only picked up steam and he wants to see that continue.
“Anybody that would like to join, whether it be a church group, civic group, business or social group, they are welcome to make this day a better day,” said Strickland. “It’s not a big thing. It’s just a great day of unity.”
Many local business have donated toward Unity in the Community Day, and Strickland said that speaks well for the event. Regardless of whether those donors are from a religious or church affiliation, a local business or simply a community citizen, they all want to support coming together “for the express purpose of enhancing unity in the community,” he attested.
“We work on the orchestration of the word of God. It’s nothing more than that,” Strickland stated. “We are about bringing people together for this day to bring unity throughout. It’s just a lovely day.”
For more information about Saturday’s Unity in the Community Day, or to become involved, contact Charles Strickland at 910-590-4925 or Unity president Ulysses Newkirk at 910-284-6384.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-249-4616. Follow us on twitter @SampsonInd.