There are two stories to be told of the 5th annual Summer Safety Slam event held on August 8th at Joslin Parkin the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. One is about bringing residents and police together for a fun-filled, free evening in the park. The second, and lesser told story, is of the longstanding collaborations that made this possible.
For close to 20 years, Olneyville residents, community groups and local businesses have worked together to organize community initiatives through the Olneyville Collaborative. Since the introduction of the Health Equity Zone initiative, these collaborations have grown stronger due to increased communication and overlapping work of individuals and agencies. These initiatives, including the Olneyville community newsletter, spring clean-up “Olneyville Shines”, the Fall Festival, and the Summer Safety Slam reach thousands of residents each year.
What does this collaboration look like? At the Summer Safety Slam, it was a resource fair made possible by borrowing tables from collaborative network members and free children’s activities in the field. Abelardo Hernandez, a founding Collaborative member and Olneyville resident, had the Guatemalan Soccer League run games with children on the soccer field while the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence and the Providence Police Department hosted a basketball game on the courts. The relationships built by regularly working and meeting together has bred collective responsibility for the community and each other.
Collaboration is also about pitching in for the less glamourous work: William D’Abate Elementary School and Joslin Recreation Center opened their doors to hold supplies that could not be picked up until the following day while staff from Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, the Providence Police Department, and Greater Providence YMCA worked to make sure everything was in its place and to troubleshoot when bouncy houses and generators proved more difficult to move than expected.
While these collaborations are widely unseen and not the aim of our events, without them, these initiatives would not be possible.
Councilwoman Sabina Matos summed up this sentiment by stating, “The Summer Safety Slam brought over 250 neighbors together to play, build trust, and to learn about the variety of community programs that benefit all of us. I was very happy to take part again this year. Olneyville is a community on the rise and that’s in no small part due to dedicated partners who make up the Olneyville Collaborative!”