Party gives city kids evening of fun before school starts

August 22, 2014
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Francesca Sacco / Observer-Reporter
A crowd gathers at the Sumner Avenue back-to-school block party Friday in Washington. Order a Print
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Francesca Sacco / Observer-Reporter
Kamyah Davis, 3, of Pittsburgh, signs up for the dance competition Friday at the Sumner Avenue back-to-school block party. Order a Print
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Francesca Sacco / Observer-Reporter
Organizers Monika Mims and Suzanne Kelley sort the free school items that were later distributed to the kids in attendance Friday. Order a Print

Friday evening was the perfect backdrop for a summer’s farewell.

Hundreds of area residents packed Sumner Avenue for their annual back-to-school block party.

Monika Mims, a resident of Sumner Avenue and the director of the Sumner Avenue Street Dance Committee, said the event provides families with one last night of fun before the new school year.

“Once it gets dark, the whole street is packed,” Mims said of the event. “People come from all over. It gives the kids something to do and keeps them out of trouble.”

Mims said her mother, Sandra Walden, started the block party 33 years ago.

“(Walden and others) were sitting around outside and decided that the kids needed something to do,”she said. “They decided on a block party.”

Over the years, area residents have watched as the event transformed from a small get-together to a large, jam-packed party. With the help of residents and area businesses, Mims said the SASDC provides free food, music and school supplies. For the last several years, Mims said Community Action has donated two refurbished computers to raffle away.

New this year was a dance competition sponsored by Stop the Violence, an anti-violence group created by the family of Vincent Kelley, who was fatally shot last June while trying to stop a bank robbery in South Strabane Township. Vincent’s sister-in-law, Suzanne Kelley, said she approached Mims about assisting with the block party.

“We wanted to do something positive for the kids,” she said. “One last hoorah before school.”

Kelley said the top three winners of the dance competition were awarded gift cards to purchase items for school.

“We want this to be a good year,” she said. “We want a positive atmosphere going into the school year.”

Denise Dates grew up in the Sumner Avenue neighborhood. Regardless of where she has been over the year, Dates said she has always made a point to make it back for the block party.

“Now, we’ve got generations coming,” the Washington resident said.

Among those dancing in the street was 5-year-old Aniya Glendenning. Her grandmother, Lisa West, of Washington, said her granddaughter has been coming to the party since she was a baby.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get together,” she said.

Glendenning, who will be starting kindergarten Monday at Washington Park Elementary School, said her favorite part is dancing and seeing friends.

“It’s fun,” she said.

Washington Mayor Brenda Davis, police Chief Chris Luppino and other officials from the community attended the event. Davis said block parties serve an important role in communities.

“They rejuvenate community pride,” she said. “It’s a great example for other communities to establish something.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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