Austin celebrates with block party, health and wellness fair

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The 5900 block of West End Avenue became a stage for Tai Chi and salsa and tango dancing demonstrations a recent Saturday, as residents gathered for music, face painting, games and grilling as part of a community celebration and health fair.

The June 21 party was hosted by the Central Austin Neighborhood Association, which coordinated efforts with the Third Unitarian Church, which organized the health and wellness fair.

The focus of both events was to “bring Austin together in a positive way,” said Serethea Reid, president of the two-year-old Central Austin Neighborhood Association.

“We don’t see a lot of community activities, so we decided to have an event and invite everyone in the area to celebrate the community and come together,” she said.

Focusing on the 16 blocks in Austin bounded by Menard Avenue, Austin Boulevard, Madison Street and Corcoran Place, the neighborhood association focuses on improving Austin through services such as beautification, neighborhood watch and youth activities.

Members work with the Better Government Association, and last summer they hosted a bike club and spring-cleaning event that included planting flowers and greenery throughout the community.

“It’s not about how bad it is, who made it bad or how long it’s been bad, it’s about taking action,” Reid said.

The Central Austin Neighborhood Association holds its monthly meetings at Third Unitarian Church, whose  congregation makes up a substantial portion of CANA’s membership.

Reid said she hoped hosting the block party on the same day as the church’s health and wellness fair would increase participation at both events.

“We have all kinds of health problems in our community, and a lot of our problems come from not knowing what is available,” said Barbara Minor, a member of the church’s outreach and scholarship committee who volunteered at the fair.

“With the challenges of getting health care and everything that’s going on, it’s obvious that health is a major barrier for a lot of people, and events like this are important,” she said.

Those who attended the fair received free health assistance and education from 15 health providers and vendors from across the city, including Gift of Hope, Senior Care, Rush Hospital and HerbaLife.

Inspiration Kitchens, a food service training program that helps the homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals with social services and job skills, provided food and gift cards at the fair.

At a time when increasing violence seems to dominate the West Side neighborhood’s news, residents understand the value the event brings to the community.

“We want to do something great in the central Austin neighborhood,” said Beatrice Hardy, 43, a lifelong Austin resident and 10-month volunteer for the Central Austin Neighborhood Association who participated in the block party as her husband and son worked the grills.

“The more positive things that our young people and our residents see in our community, they’ll take a more positive approach to how they treat our neighborhood,” she said.

“We’re hoping the events today encourage more participation in our neighborhood to bring about the good things we all want around us where we live,” she said. “You’ve got to care about where you live — it’s up to us, right? — and we’re hoping that this mentality gets contagious and a lot of other residents here take on the same ideals.”

Click here to visit the Central Austin Neighborhood Association’s web site for pictures and to see other event sponsors and vendors.


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