CLINTON — “Keeping Unity in the Community” is the slogan of the Vinson H. Jetter Community Center, which sponsors “Youth for a Nonviolent Community,” the annual back-to-school event that was held Saturday in Clinton Park.
Living up to the tagline, the community center achieved both unity and harmony, bringing together hundreds of Clinton residents for a day of free food, free school supplies and a number of activities.
“It was the best yet!” said Dina White, president of the Vinson H. Jetter Community Center. “Even those involved in it said how good of a turnout we had.”
Ebony Illusions, Bubba the Clown, Against the Ropes and Impact Martial Arts laser tag were part of the festivities along with three-on-three basketball tournaments that awarded medals to the first- and second-place teams. The tournament had a special draw this year with an appearance from Devan Douglas, a Clinton native who now plays for the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Devan was our main attraction because he signed autographs, took pictures with the kids, talked about basketball techniques and gave advice to the kids about sticking with your goals. It was all very positive,” White said.
Orchestrating free hot dogs, roasted corn on the cob, grilled cabbage, barbeque ribs, and chicken wings with a number of free games and activities required a large number of volunteers. White said there were many volunteers this year, especially family members.
“It’s good to see them involved," she said.
Many of the relatives were the great-nieces and great-nephews of White and Jetter, but there were also many volunteers from the community who wanted to help.
“We had so many volunteers,” White said. “Movs Monique was the DJ, we had a lady and her friends take care of the food, volunteers from Prince of Peace ran the jumpy houses and did face painting, others also did face painting, Impact Martial Arts brought laser tags and donated hot dogs and potato chips. They were awesome," she said.
White said the group also received a number of donations from the Victory Center, Lyons Filling Station, Dairy Queen, Hy-Vee, Ruhl and Ruhl and others. Rounding out the event were Clinton Peace Coalition and Clinton County Democrats with tables with giveaways and crafts.
The community center collected school supplies at various locations in Clinton and filled 300 bags to be given away to school-age children. When asked if there were enough bags for the number of children who requested them, White replied, “It’s never enough,” adding, “Last year we had 400 but this year some of the donation places had boxes with nothing in it.”
With the event falling close to the Aug. 3 birthday of the founder, a large birthday cake was part of the festivities. White is the sister of Jetter, who founded Youth for a Safe Nonviolent Community. Before dying at the age of 62, Jetter had been a volunteer for a number of organizations including the Clinton Substance Abuse Council, Voices of Diversity, Community Response Task Force, Character Counts Program, Clinton Peace Coalition, Habitat for Humanity, New Directions Board, 4-H Club, 21st Century After School Program, NAACP, Health Advisory Council, Clinton County Against Child Abuse, Youth Advisory Council, and Bethel A.M.E. Steward Board.
White intends to step down as president now that other family members have come forward to take over leadership of the community center. The great-niece of White and Jetter, Rachel Jetter, has stepped up to take the role of president while great-nephew Kevin Hart will assume the role of vice-president. Both will begin in the near future.
The next event for the community center will be a pumpkin decorating party on Oct. 21 from noon to 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church.
“We’ll have pumpkins donated by McGinnis Farms in Thomson, Illinois along with free pizza, free coats, free cleaning supplies and a pumpkin decorating contest,” White announced.
First United Methodist Church has joined the center’s efforts in the past few years, not only in providing the location but by adding a trunk-or-treat in the parking lot as well.