Oct .2, 2005 "We are products of our environment," Lillian Southerland, director of the Save Our Community committee and the organizer of a family walk-a-thon, said Saturday. Southerland and nearly 1,000 other residents trekked from Sunny Isles to the Agricultural Fairgrounds early Saturday morning to highlight the importance of a solid family structure in the community.
The walk-a-thon, which was held as part of the October Family Month observances, brings family issues and concerns to the forefront, Southerland said. She said the family atmosphere and events that focus on families having fun together help mold a family unit. "We pass on traditional values at these events," Southerland commented.
This year is the first observance of V.I. Family Month and activities are being held on each island to recognize the importance families in the community. In 2004, October was designated as V.I. Family month through a legislative resolution.
Southerland said she is hopeful that as V.I. Family Month progresses, the community will take up the torch and initiate activities to promote family values and togetherness.
Several community organizations occupied the bright yellow booths on the east side of the fairgrounds Saturday. They distributed informational pamphlets and giveaways such as pens and knapsacks to the crowd. Barbara McIntosh, administrator for the Office of Highway Safety manned a booth with a group of teen volunteers. McIntosh said the organization helps families stay safe on the roads and highways of the Virgin Islands by conducting clinics on seat belts, child safety seats, bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Next door, Joyce Brown, Unity Coalition program coordinator, passed out pamphlets on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use prevention. She was busy giving away pencils, knapsacks and cups with the coalition logo. Brown said the event today was an important one for families to get information on safety. "Its a great move toward increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors in the community," Brown said. "We really need to support these types of activities in the island."
The high point of family month will be the renewal of marriage vows on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The committee is looking for 200 couples on each island to participate. "Let's put the face of love on St. Croix and St. Thomas," Southerland said. "There are too many negative messages coming out of our communities." Southerland said that if enough couples participate in the ceremony, that national news media would pick up the coverage of the events. Couples who participate will receive gift and prizes, she said.
Both vow renewal ceremonies will be held on Oct. 30. On St. Thomas, the event will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Emancipation Gardens. The St. Croix the event starts at 5:30 p.m. near the clock tower on the Frederiksted waterfront..
Registration forms can be picked up on St. Croix at Lillian's Beauty World or by calling 692-1837 On St. Thomas or St. John call Lennox Zamore at 774-0930 ext 4477
Activities for the remainder of V.I. Family Month are as follows:
— Oct. 12 – Students will visit senior citizen homes and discuss family ties
— Oct. 16 – Open religious service at Winston Wells Ballpark with sermons, music and dancing.
— Oct. 18 – 6 p.m. Women's Day workshop at St. Ursula's Center
— Oct. 20 – March against domestic Violence
Fun Day and Family sports
— Oct. 8 & 9- During services, religious leaders are asked to highlight the importance of families and non-violence in the community
— Oct. 10 – 6 a.m. to Noon – Walk-a-thon from Port Authority Park to Brewers Bay beach. Fun day to follow
— Oct. 30 – 3:30 p.m. – Marriage vow renewal ceremony at Emancipation Gardens
— All month – Schools are being asked to give age-appropriate assignments to create a greater awareness of the importance of family. Parental involvement is key.
— Individual families are asked to mend fences and build bridges within your family by planning family gatherings and visiting family members.
— Oct. 30 – 5:30 p.m. – Marriage vow renewal ceremony at the Frederiksted waterfront.
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