Clearwater’s Annual Community Family Fun Night brings out the crowds with a mission of unity

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

CLEARWATER – Buccaneer Football Field, located at 905 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Clearwater’s North Greenwood neighborhood, was live and poppin’ recently during this year’s annual Community Family Fun Night.

Started by Marilyn Turman in 2014, the Community Family Fun Night brought hundreds of residents from all over Pinellas County to enjoy free food, games, giveaways and entertainment. Children and youth enjoyed bounce houses, face painting and a rock-climbing wall.

Parents had plenty of options for perusing the wares of vendors, while community groups including the Tampa Bay Center for Community Transformation, the Clearwater Neighborhood Family Center, Young Life Inc., Artz 4 Life Academy, Shihan School of Survival and many others were in attendance.

“This is our fifth year coming together to do this event. I work with an amazing group of volunteers –almost 200 volunteers work the event,” Turman shared.

Her vision of creating a community gathering to engage and bring out residents for a night of entertainment and fun has always had a greater mission.

“We have a number of sponsors who’ve worked with us year after year, and we’re just excited that we can bring this event to the community as it continues to grow in size. Our theme this year is reaching higher together, connected in unity.”

Turman noted that the event’s goal was to connect the community through education, business development and entrepreneurship and that many of the sponsors present were there to help get those resources in the hands of residents.

“You can’t always get the people to the information, but you can always get the information to the people, so that’s what we’re doing. The other stuff is just the icing on the cake.”

The sponsoring organization for the event was the Tampa Bay Center for Community Transformation (TBCCT). Founded by Pastor Doug Walker, the organization’s mission is to bring healing by building social networks and dialogue for mutual understanding, while organizing for just social systems.

Along with his wife, Cheryl Faries, Walker is bringing his expertise as a national consultant for criminal justice reform for the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church to his work in Clearwater.

Turman also serves as TBCCT’s director of community engagement. “She keeps us connected to the community,” shared Walker. “She helps us connect to the organizations and individuals that we really need to be connected to, to have a successful event.”

One example is their series Movies That Matter, presenting films illustrating the impact of trauma on the community and educating communities on trauma-informed care.

Along with dance performances by Artz 4 Life Academy, there were musical performances by girl group Pretti Emage, and entertainment by Ivy King Jackson, a professional Michael Jackson impersonator.

Council member Dr. Bob Cundiff took the stage to share, “I love the organization, I love the folks that are here. Thank you all for coming, and make sure you thank all the people in the booths for coming to share the information.”

Cundiff, who has taught at St. Petersburg College (SPC) for about 20 years, said it was an event that brought out community members from the fire and police department, city programs and departments and churches — making it a place of unity and reunion. “I try to come every year,” he asserted.

Mayor George N. Cretekos was also on-hand to give his best wishes.

Other sponsors and supporting organizations included Clearwater Police Department, City of Clearwater, United Way, Sam’s Club, Pinellas Technical College, SPC, Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Clearwater Business Spark, Florida Small Business Development Center, Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp, Young & Sons Tax Accounting, Career Source, RCS Pinellas, the Community Alliance Volunteers and many community churches.

Terry Jones, executive director of the Clearwater Neighborhood Family Center, was there on behalf of the organization, which is housed directly across from Buccaneer Field at the Greenwood Recreation Center. The center offers classes, afterschool care and community programs.

The event began at 5 p.m. and lasted until around 9:30 p.m., and was capped off by a line dance session led by instructor Leslie Henry.

Shihan Walter Evans of Shihan School of Survival brought a team to Community Fun Night. His young charges offered a presentation of basic martial arts forms, strikes and kicks. Many members of the team were already preparing themselves for the Shihan School of Survival’s 4th Annual Open Karate Championships happening in Feb.

“It’s an honor to come into the community and let the community know the value in martial arts, the structure and discipline of martial arts,” said Evans, offering a sentiment many in attendance seemed to share: “I really appreciate doing this every year.”

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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