About 50 people attended a march and rally last week designed to bring residents together to help the community.
Ray Martinez, organizer of Unity in the Community, was hoping 300 people would turn out for the six-mile march through Los Banos, followed by a rally at the Los Banos Community Center. Martinez said failing to draw such numbers has not deterred him.
“To me, the event is still successful because we’re being obedient to God’s direction, and people have come together. It would have been nice to have a thousand people here, but this is just the start of this whole thing,” he said.
Martinez and members of his church, Star of David Ministries, hoped the gathering would spark local government officials, business owners and members of churches to work with one another to solve homelessness, gang violence and other issues plaguing the city. It’s a proposal that resonated with those who turned out Saturday, and one that Martinez wants to see come together annually.
Sherma Gould, who waited at the Los Banos Community Center for the rally to begin, said she believes in people of faith uniting.
“This is one of the answers, all the Christians coming together. It’s just (that) everyone is so busy doing their own thing,” she said.
Gould said her biggest concern is gang violence in Los Banos.
Former Mayor and current school board Trustee Tommy Jones, as keynote speaker, challenged people to ask their church leaders why they didn’t attend the event and what they plan to do to make Los Banos better. Jones delivered a message of supporting children before they become prison statistics.
“Instead of catching these kids in gangs years from now, catch them right now and give them something positive to do,” Jones said. “To keep one prisoner, it costs $75,000 to $100,000 a year. If we would raise, educate and save these babies, wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper? I think it’s time to say we love our kids, we love our neighbors, and we’re willing to do what it takes to make a better life for everybody.”
Jones asked the audience to help Martinez make Los Banos a better place to live, and to exercise their right to vote to ensure the election of candidates who share their vision.
The event also featured the Christian band Embrace, lunch and a raffle.
“We want to make Los Banos a city that’s high on a hill, where people are so happy to say, ‘Hey, that is my city,” Martinez said. “This is not a one-time event. We are going to be doing this every year.”