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'Unity in the Community' aims to bring residents, resources and first responders together

Unity in the Community: Beyond the Walls aims to bring together neighbors and connect residents with resources and first responders Sunday at Sherman Park.
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Unity in the Community: Beyond the Walls aims to bring together neighbors and connect residents with resources and first responders Sunday, June 12 at Sherman Park.

Unity in the Community: Beyond the Walls will bring haircuts, horseback rides, food and games to Sherman Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The inaugural and free event will also feature a resource hub with agencies that specialize in employment, mental health, violence prevention and more.

Jason Mims, a pastor at Embassy Center MKE, says ideas for the event started last year. Mims says the center’s senior pastor, Dr. Marcus Arrington, wanted to focus on breaking barriers in neighborhoods.

"We’ve been on a trajectory for about 4 or 5 years to change our economic community," says Mims. "Now we're focusing on — instead of just going out to evangelize — actually build relationships with people, meet people where they're at and establish true relationships."

He says creating authentic bonds will allow people to have tough discussions.

"That will allow us in the end to have a foundation where we can have difficult conversations about what hurts us, pains us about the challenges that impact our community. Then, collaboratively come up with solutions, thereby strengthening Sherman Park neighborhoods. We're stronger together than we are apart. But if we don't have authentic relationships, we can't even get started."

Unity in the Community will offer a resource hub with experts from several agencies including Hydrate the Homeless, Dream Team United, Community Task Force and more. Care Net, which provides prenatal services, will also be at the free event and Chase Bank will offer personal financial management classes. Above the Clouds will demonstrate a dance performance and share how others can participate in free arts programs.

Guests can expect to enjoy snow cones, get their face painted, play tennis and watch a basketball game between Milwaukee Police and local youth.

But Mims says the event is about more than having fun.

"We can't just come and celebrate and have a good time, but people leave still with needs — true, authentic needs," he says. "There's a good portion of our Sherman Park community, especially around Parklawn that lives with an annual income rate of under $2,000 a month. That's an economic need."

"We can give out food for a minute, but it still doesn't change that fact," he adds. "So how can we help people get to the resources that can give them breathing room. And then with authentic relationships being built, we can start to bring out hope, and hope can breed people seeing their purpose, the calling, and who they're called to be. And that's what changes a community."

Mims says the outreach began by going door-to-door in a small section of the Sherman Park neighborhood. They asked people what their hopes and dreams are, what challenges they face and what needs they have. Mims says the community shared needs that exceeded what his church could offer.

He hopes people will have several takeaways after the event including having an enjoyable time "in a safe space in their backyard."

"That they are able to meet someone that they didn't know before and that they're worth knowing," Mims says. "That they leave with the idea that they're worth being celebrated. And the potential, if it ever was extinguished before, the idea that they have a calling or purpose can be reignited out of this."

Mims says it’s too soon to know if Unity in the Community will return next year, but he has a better vision of what success means to residents.

Unity in the Community: Beyond the Walls will take place at Sherman Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information visit embassycentermke.org.

Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.
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