By Mary Obrochta
In 2005, our then praise band leader Jason Powell and his wife came up with an idea to provide a safer place for neighborhood kids to Trick or Treat. Getting the plan in action, we sent out a call to the congregation for donations and set up a few booths. We placed candy-givers at each door, held a costume contest, and threw a few hot dogs on the grill. Thanks to a little local advertising, our very first Trick or Treat event attracted between 50-75 people. Everyone had fun, but little did we know where we would be today.
The following year we planned the event again, expecting the same results. This time we had about 150 people show up. Needless to say, we ran out of a few things, but we were starting to see how much the community appreciated the event.
Fast forward about five years or so: our volunteer recruiting began to increase, planning started just a little earlier each year, and our cry for candy and little booth prize donations grew louder. We learned that this event was more than something the community really appreciated, but something the community needed. Over and over we heard accolades from parents and kids that this IS their trick or treat plan.
Over the last few years we’ve added a new layer to the event with neighborhood and city resource information that residents may not be aware of. We solicited and collected valuable information for families including resource manuals, lists of important phone numbers, and local community information. We offered the information sheets on tables for people to browse and pick what they were interested in.
After last October’s event which attracted between 750 and 900 people, we looked at the event in a different way. I am a “community activist.” I work very hard to educate residents on crime prevention, personal safety, and community injustices. Simply stated, I look for ways to stop the bad guys from intruding and taking their stuff. I started to realize that this is a missed opportunity! Based on historical attendance, we have an opportunity to reach hundreds of households in a matter of three hours! A couple of us got together and constructed a City of Phoenix grant request in order to purchase crime prevention and safety items such as glow sticks, glow bags, 2-way radios, police coloring books for the kids, window locks, flashlights, whistles, shirts, parking lot rentals, and more for the families. If this grant is approved, we will show how we truly are a Ray of Hope to our community by adding yet another layer of neighborhood outreach and testimony for our guests.
What started as a humble, door-knock event that served 50 children has grown into an annual neighborhood event that is highly anticipated by many of our surrounding communities. Moving forward, our goal remains the same: provide neighbors with a free, fun, safe place for their families to celebrate Halloween and this year we are hoping to further enhance the experience with crime safety resources and tools to better serve residents throughout the year.