The event, held at the Everette Hodge Community Center, provided a fun and safe environment for community members to get together, with free food, entertainment and a bike raffle.
Each year, Franklin Street to Prospect Street is closed off for the activities and stage performances. This year’s performances included liturgical dancing by Sydni Alonso and Shane McMillian, a musical performance by Malinda Tart, Hebert Hill Jr., DJ Pure, and dancing led by the founder and director of Energy, Bryant “Drew” Andrews.
Terri Gittens, a resident of Kingston, came dressed in a clown costume she made herself.
“It was one of the best ever in spite of the rain,” said Sandy Hopgood. Hopgood is one of the original planners of Make a Difference Day. She, Linda Showers and Marge Gagnon wanted to put together an event that made a difference in people’s lives hence Make a difference day came to be.
“I wanted to have an event that made people feel safe,” said Hopgood. “I wanted people to see that good things come out of the Mid-Hudson.”
They began to look for participants when Kingston Cares called asking to work with them. The director of Kingston Cares, Megan Weiss, supervised and organized activities.
“I like that people can come out and celebrate the best part of their community,” said Weiss.
Mayoral candidates Shayne Gallo and Hayes Clement were also present, enjoying the day’s events and doing the electric slide alongside Kingston youths.
Clement, a frequent attendee of the celebration, was pleased at the turn out for the day. “This is a great event,” said Clement. “It serves the families of the Mid-Hudson [region].”
Gallo, attending for the first time, said he finds it critical that the community connects with each other. “It gives people a sense of place,” said Gallo.
Teresa Washington-Thomas has been to make a difference day each year, setting up tables for her summer program Read and Write program.
“I like to see the kids laughing and the parents getting to see their kids have fun,” said Washington-Thomas.
Fentress McPherson, another resident of Kingston, has also attended Make a Difference Day every year. McPherson said the festival is also a good time to catch up with what’s going on in the community.
Clark Waters, principal of John F Kennedy Elementary School, and Alan Mandel ran the bike safety seminar, where children and adults got a lesson on riding bikes in the street before and after dark. A total of 26 bikes and bike locks were given away at the bike raffle; participants were required to take the bike seminar before they received a raffle ticket.
Hopgood presented certificates to participants who have volunteered at the Everette Hodge Center and Make a Difference Day.
Dominic Olivo has been volunteering at the Hodge Center since he was in high school. Now a student oat SUNY New Paltz, he visits occasionally to help out with the Friday night Rewards for Excellence program that had its last ceremony June 3.
As part of the closing Olivo sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” by Boyz II Men as a tribute to Hopgood, who will be leaving the Hodge Center this month as the YWCA takes over operations there.