Young attendees show off their bags of toys June 27 in the parking lot of Vinson Chapel, on Quinn Road in Clinton Township, as part of an event that combined toy giveaways and Census registration.

Young attendees show off their bags of toys June 27 in the parking lot of Vinson Chapel, on Quinn Road in Clinton Township, as part of an event that combined toy giveaways and Census registration.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Toy giveaways and Census registration take over church parking lot

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2020

 Pastor Larry Ireland, from New Generation in Mount Clemens, passes out Census information.

Pastor Larry Ireland, from New Generation in Mount Clemens, passes out Census information.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Kids and adults benefited from a recent afternoon event held in the parking lot at Vinson Chapel, on Quinn Road in Clinton Township.

From noon to 2 p.m. June 27, a coalition of local organizations and activists gave away toys to community kids while adults were encouraged to register for the 2020 Census. It was part of the “Clinton Township Counts” event.

Financial sponsors of the event include the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance and Vinson Chapel AME Church. Organizational partners included Rev. Twylla Lucas of the Vinson Chapel, the Official Black Caucus of Macomb County, TCB Mentoring, Clinton Township Trustee Mike Keys, Advancing Macomb and LK St. Clair Soccer.

Keys said the event spawned from discussions months ago, regarding bringing after-school programming to the Village housing development in the south end of the township. When COVID-19 took hold, he started meeting weekly via Zoom with Lucas; Thomas Barnes, of TCB Mentoring; and others to figure out alternative ideas.

That advanced to getting in touch with Advancing Macomb and Fraser-based CARE of Southeastern Michigan, the latter of which discussed an all-virtual summer camp for kids. The nonprofit LK St. Clair Soccer organization gave out bags that contained soccer balls, cones and water bottles.

Due to sending out solicitation letters with intent, Keys said he and the others involved received an “overwhelming response.” They raised over $3,500 and bought a variety of toys from the nearby Target on Gratiot Avenue, including action figures, slime, Play-Doh, chalk, coloring books, basketballs, volleyballs and hula hoops.

About 300 bags were given out to children, with each bag containing different items. Keys said at least 350 people pulled into the parking lot that afternoon, with additional residents registering for the Census or taking materials home while others had previously registered.

Rev. Lucas said the event was bred from the idea that kids couldn’t enjoy the prototypical summer and play with one another. Providing kids with toys they could play with alone or in groups — especially when some kids on that end of the township were “playing” with items like shopping carts and items that posed injury concerns — was enough reason.

“We wanted to give them basketballs, volleyballs, give them some kind of structure,” Lucas said.

One lucky winner won a free bike in a contest, she said. At press time, there was talk of having another outdoor event involving water balloons.

As for her church, it has been closed for months due to the pandemic. Vinson AME Chapel holds Zoom-based services. The current plan is to reopen in September, synchronizing with other churches and leaders, and hire a professional company to sanitize the building. Social distancing procedures will be paramount because she said most of her church’s members are “of age.”

Lucas is also pondering holding a couple services in the same outdoor parking lot, to offer something different than online-based services. It could help reach other members of the community, she said.

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