'Stop the Violence' holding walk Sunday, community gathering May 9

Karen Sorensen | 4/28/2015, 4:08 p.m.
A prayer walk will start at Forest Park Community Center this Sunday, followed by a community party at Varnado Park ...
Joliet residents participate in a prayer walk held April 12 by the Stop the Violence Initiative, which will hold another walk this Sunday starting at the Forest Park Community Center. Photo by Wayne McNair

Joliet's Stop the Gun Violence Initiative will hold two public events -- one this Sunday and a second on May 9 -- to draw attention to their cause and bring the community together.

A prayer walk will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Forest Park Community Center, 1017 Woodruff Road. It's the third walk in a series of five, each of which is targeting a different part of the city.

One week later, a "community event" will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 9 at Varnado Park at McDonough and Water streets.

Both events are being orchestrated by the Men of Valor 2 organization and are meant to let people know they are not alone and powerless when it comes to taking control of their neighborhoods and pushing back against the mostly gang-related violence plaguing some parts of Joliet, Pastor Glenda McCullum said.

McCullum was at the Joliet Park Board meeting Monday to seek approval to use Varnado as the site for their community party, which she said will feature games, food, music and other entertainment.

"Our (plan) is to go into the community and try to change some things around," said McCullum, pastor of Kingdom Builders International Church at 1106 Curtis Ave. "We intend to make our presence known in the community."

They've found a particularly receptive audience in the people who live around Varnado, prompting McCullum to ask the park board to find a way to improve the grounds and add amenities that will bring more people out to use it.

It needs lights, parking, rest rooms and sports/play equipment "so the kids can have a place to call their own," she said. "The kids need an outlet. We're committed to revitalizing that community."

That request that was a little harder to grant by the board, in part because the park district does not own the park. It's leased from the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal, and the district has been reluctant to invest funds into land it doesn't own, park district CEO Dominic Egizio said.

Board member Timothy Broderick said he didn't think that was a good enough reason to allow the land to languish.

"It's my humble opinion that we can step it up," Broderick said.

At the very least, the land can be cleaned up and debris such as rocks, which make it hard to use for sports play, can be removed, he said. Egizio said they would make that happen.

Contact Karen Sorensen at Karen@TheTimesWeekly.com.