Nine-year-old Amna Chughta said she was loving her Friday night at the Golden Valley Health Centers block party. She had a snow cone, some popcorn and was able to leave with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
“I love the face painting,” Chughta said. “They paint in different colors and different styles. Everyone has a chance to have fun.”
The gathering in south Merced marked the end of summer as well as National Health Center Week.
“We’re giving back to the community where we started,” said Mary-Michal Rawling, director of governmental affairs for Golden Valley.
There were hot dogs, a dunk tank, bounce houses and many information booths such as those representing the Valley Crisis Center, All Moms Matter and the Boys & Girls Club.
“We truly do love the community we serve and this is just something small we can do,” said Griselda Villa, community health program manager for Golden Valley.
The Merced Fire Department and California Highway Patrol were at the block party to answer questions and teach the community about safety.
“A lot of people are afraid to go out and meet neighbors,” Villa said. “Here, they can get to know each other in a safe environment.”
Rob Wollins, an engineer with the Fire Department, was handing out stickers and showing children all the equipment on the firetruck. Wollins said a lot of the older kids like to know the steps they need to take to be a firefighter.
CHP Officer Moises Onsurez said the CHP was educating the public on 2017 laws regarding seat belts and car seats.
“We’re giving out info, not just for kids, but for adults,” Onsurez said.
Fernando Garcia, 22, just moved to Merced from Fresno six months ago and came to the block party to join in on the Zumba dancing. He said he is trying to be a Zumba instructor and was enjoying his time at the gathering.
“I think it helps,” Garcia said. “ It’s for all of us to get information and see what the community has to offer us and the benefits we have.”
Neighborhood United for a Better South Merced was the main group that helped put on the event, Rawling said.
“I think it helps us out an awful lot here,” said Isabel Sanchez, member of Neighborhood United. “We reach the community to see what needs to be done on the south side.”
Sanchez said the biggest need in south Merced is a grocery store, and Neighborhood United has made efforts to make that happen in the open lot at Childs Avenue and Canal Street.
“We’re working slowly, but we’re getting our voices heard,” Sanchez said.
There are monthly meetings for Neighborhood United open to anybody in the community on the first Wednesday of every month at the Golden Valley Senior Center, 857 W. Childs Ave.
“I think it’s a plus and necessity to know from the community and we would like to hear from them,” Sanchez said.