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No community without unity | Sampson Independent

Unity Walk scheduled for September 10 in Clinton

The Clinton Unity March, scheduled for September 10, seeks to reclaim the city as a place of safety and belonging in the wake of violence and loss. The event has already attracted strong support and event organizer Heather Dixon, founder of non-profit organization Changing Lives 365, said the day of hope and healing will bring more change for the community.

The walk will start at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Union Grove Church of Christ on Lisbon Street and follow a 10-minute residential route to Newkirk Memorial Park, where entertainment and food will be enjoyed throughout. the afternoon. Dixon enlisted the help of business owner Stephanie Graham and well-known local activist Patty Cherry to help plan the event.

The women invite everyone to join. “We are going to walk. We will rejoice. We go to the park to lift it high, with great energy,” Dixon said. “We’re not going to party. We’re going to go out there and do one thing: sell hope.

Cherry has been overwhelmed with all the support the event has inspired so far. “It was phenomenal. I haven’t had anyone turn us down yet. If I ask for something small, they give me something big.

Performance Ford provides its largest rollback tent and 300 hot dogs. Lisbon Street Baptist Church matches 300 bottles of water and another sponsor provides beverages. Hope Valley Hawkins Funeral Service & Cremation is providing a tent and 60 chairs for people who cannot bring their own folding chairs. For participants, everything is free.

Major food chains in the region have stepped up their sponsorships. The new owner of Domino’s in Clinton brings her family to the event to meet community members and donate gift certificates. McDonald’s contribution is still ongoing, but Cherry hopes they will provide their famous Hi-C orange drink.

Clinton’s Nissan wrote a check in sponsorship of the unit walk. Sessoms Jewelry, Villaver Law Firm, downtown Detox Bar Wellness Center and local doctors Rodney Sessoms and Ted Thomas are also sponsoring.

Cherry invites potential sponsors to contact her at 910-224-5347. “We will accept everything and their presence,” she said. There will be a logo sign at the park acknowledging the sponsors.

Harriet Bryant, a well-known nurse at Sampson Regional Medical Center, will show off her line dancing skills, Cherry noted. Tim’s Gift’s Becky Spell is signed up to deliver encouraging remarks at the event.

Graham, fellow organizer, rattled off the list. There will be a bouncy house, sound system, master of ceremonies, entertainers and motivational speakers. “It started as a vision in Heather’s womb here, but now this thing has really taken a storm of its own,” she marveled.

Organizers expect many children to attend, given their outreach to schools and daycares. “Young people still have the opportunity to grow up and see the other side of people’s lives.”

Dixon also wants to reach the broken mom, the single dad, and the little girl with low self-esteem, so they see someone at the Unity Walk who inspires them. She wants all sectors of the city to come together on this day. After all, as the Dixon dynamo states, “there is no community without unity”.

Graham has reached out to small businesses and the event will feature more than a dozen vendors raising awareness of what they do or hosting games such as raffles. “We don’t charge for space,” she said. “All we ask of them is to give something back for free.”

The Sampson County Health Department, Sampson Regional Office, Sampson County Veterans Services Office, Boy Scouts, various fraternities and sororities, and perhaps Tar Heel ChalleNGe Academy will be available to assist you as as community resources.

The Clinton Fire Department will be in attendance, ready to take on the challengers in the swing dance competition. “We’re going to go out and have fun,” Dixon said. “We want this to be the day that reminds you, today is a good day.”

Dixon sees it as an event in the same vein as the National Night Out celebration held in the same park on the first Tuesday in August, intended to bring law enforcement and the community together to make the city more safe for everyone. In fact, Sheriff Jimmy Thornton is scheduled to speak at the event.

The town of Clinton is looking forward to the Unity Walk event, Cherry came together thanks to her preparations. “The city is reaching out, they’re saying yes,” she noted. “I’m sure they’ve had enough of the violence.”

The Honorable Paul Hardison, the presiding State District Judge for Sampson County, and Mayor Lew Starling have already marked the festivities on their dance cards.

Dixon is grateful to have Cherry’s help with the planning. “I needed a yes, and she was that yes,” Dixon considered. “It’s inspiring what a yes will give you. This will give you a multitude of other people who will say yes.

Organizers hope to make the Unity Walk an annual event. Eventually, Dixon would like to see it mandatory for people on probation and parole and broadcast live in jails and jails. “If we want to have an impact, we are going to have to target the population,” she explained. “And sometimes that population just isn’t motivated to go.”

After the event, Dixon plans to apply for grants that will benefit the community. She’s worked with teens for gang prevention in the past, and she wants to resurrect the recreation department. “If there is no recess, what is the current recess?” She asked. “I am a business owner and manager. It is my responsibility to be a community builder. If I want to live and win here, it’s my responsibility to fix it.

Changing Lives 365 seeks to reach individuals and address their suffering on a personal level – for example by providing clothing, socks and shoes to local homeless people. The shooting death of Jeffrey Scott Melvin, a man living near Newkirk Park, the Saturday before July 4, inspired Dixon to create this Unity Walk event.

Dixon was sitting on her porch when she heard the shots ring out, assuming they were fireworks. Later she would discover that it was the sound of a life being taken away, a life she had recently touched. “Right before he passed, we had a conversation,” Dixon recounted. “And I was able to give him hope, and he was a young boy who longed for a change.”

As Dixon went door-to-door to evangelize her event, she observed the fear her neighbors have of the outside world, but said hearing about the unit march gave them something to look forward to. to hope. “As we watch the call for help, we don’t want to hide the pain, but we want to come back now and make some noise,” Dixon said. “After restoring hope, what do we do with it? Have a day of laughter, a day of peace.

Cherry, who Dixon adoringly calls “modern-day Mother Teresa,” has faith in the Unity Walk event. “When you talk to people and nobody turns you down, I mean, what more could you ask for? Cherry pointed out. “I pray it attracts a lot of people.”

India K. Autry can be reached at 910-249-4617.