The Kennedy Neighborhood Family Council hosted just over 500 families at Kennedy Elementary School Thursday for an evening of dinner and pictures.
People gathered at the Keizer school to have dinner and get their photos taken, with the opportunity todecorate and have them framed. Each family also received a $25 gift card.
Thursday’s event was similar to Kennedy Elementary School’s “Winter Wonderland” event held last month.
Eduardo Angulo, the leader of Community Business and Educational Leaders’ neighborhood councils, said the schools this council serves are some of the most economically challenged in the Salem-Keizer region. With recently high gas prices and bouts of inflation, Angulo is aware more than ever of the needs his families face.
“We’re offering families that opportunity just to enjoy a bit of family time away from the TV and the computers, and just enjoy with each other and with other families like them, who are in a struggle to raise their kids in a safe environment,” Angulo said.
Miranda Pickner, Kennedy principal, who attended the dinner,said it was great to have families back in the building “having wonderful conversations, connecting with everyone.”
“It is essential that we have times and places for communities to gather,” Pickner said.
Eliza Moreno, a member of the council and a Kennedy library media specialist, was thankful for the dinner.
“As a parent of three kids, I can tell you I am always going to make time for an event that is going to feed my children,” Moreno said. “I am never not going to have a heart of gratitude for that being provided — because I feel like any time a family can get a nice, healthy meal, it’s always going to be a great opportunity.”
One comment she heard a lot from families at the dinner was how fun it was to get their photos taken.
“That was a big one (and) they also seemed to really enjoy the photo frame creation. They got to add stickers and adornments,” Moreno said.
Angulo said the neighborhood council wanted to let Kennedy Elementary School families know “we care for them.”
“They (members of the council) want to create a community — one in which the children feel safe in their neighborhood with safe adults who love them,” Angulo said, “and that we’re trying to create a better environment of more involvement of parents’ education of their kids.”
The neighborhood councils are intended to empower neighborhood residents to get together, discuss problems and make changes in their communities.
Pickner believes the councils will be able to “draw on local resources and tap into local organizations that can support families,” not just kids.
Moreno said the councils are worthwhile.
“Whereas the school is a good hub for community-building for our students, these neighborhood councils allow a good hub for community-building in adults,” she said. “Sometimes, we get busy with work and tending to our families — these events not only help bring our children together, but our adults, as well.”
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Kevin Opsahl is the education reporter for Salem Reporter. He was previously the education reporter for The Mail Tribune, based in Medford. He has reported for newspapers in Utah and Washington and freelanced. Kevin is a 2010 graduate of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, and is a native of Maryland.