Program The Parks' 4th Annual RBG Gift Must 2018 is Spontaneously Giving Away and Brightening Days

Program The Parks' 4th Annual RBG Gift Must 2018 is Spontaneously Giving Away and Brightening Days

Program The Parks will be handing out donated toys in the Sherman Park area on Dec. 24. (Picture by Vaun Mayes)

Program The Parks will be handing out donated toys in the Sherman Park area on Dec. 24. (Picture by Vaun Mayes)

2015 was the start of an innovative idea that hasn’t received the correct recognition until now. Program The Parks went door to door giving away donated toys to families on and around 27th and Burleigh St. in hopes of creating a brighter holiday for them.

Program The Parks works closely with inner-city, impoverished youth by using community spaces, such as parks, as a way to connect with the youth and address their traumas. Instead of punishing the youth, Program The Parks identifies the actual issue that’s causing the negative behaviors, and finds ways to address the issue in an effective way.

Founder and Owner of Program The Parks Vaun Mayes says he works in-depth with families who’ve experienced police shootings and deaths. Although Mayes doesn’t celebrate Christmas, he knows the holidays can take a toll on a person, especially those who’ve lost someone. Depression and suicide rates get higher and to fight against that, RBG (Red, Black and Green) Gift Must was created.

People take Christmas for granted, said Mayes. But there are hundreds of people who’ve lost someone to homicide. Those people tend to feel the loneliest and forgotten about around this time of year.

Vaun Mayes. (Picture taken from Facebook)

The idea of the gift must is to spontaneously knock on a family’s door and give them a few toys, but not just any family. A family who doesn’t have the luxury to get their own.

All donations will be given to kids who need it the most. (Picture by Vaun Mayes)

The first year of RBG, Mayes and some others knocked on a door on 20th and something off Chambers St. When the door opened about 18 people were in the house and not one gift was under their tree. But the kids were soon glowing with joy to know that they were receiving gifts.

“They were so happy,” Mayes said as he smiled. “It [giving away spontaneously] has shown me an element of appreciation that organizations don’t get to see.”

Their spontaneous giving is reinventing the element of community, said Mayes. Most of the neighborhoods they visit have community members who don’t know their neighbors, work all the time or they’re too afraid of their own neighborhood, amongst other things, to connect with one and another. Program The Parks is putting the message out there that community matters and that the community has your back when you need it the most, said Mayes.

Program The Parks is a nonprofit mainly funded by the community. Meaning they don’t receive grants or any federal funding. But they have one received one grant from Madison for $3,000.

Their name comes from the idea as seeing parks as a “hotspot.” Sherman Park was the hotspot for everything, such as shootings, robberies, etc., said Mayes. So, Program The Parks combated that and met the youth where they were at, to hopefully influence them onto a more positive path.

RBG’s name comes from Marcus Garvey, “the promoter of Pan-Africanism and black pride…[he] had a vision of economic independence for his people,” according to New York Public Radio. Mayes takes pride in Black culture and wants to influence others to get to know their history because you have to know where you’ve been to get where you’re going.

Other than the gift must, Program The Parks provides a variety of services. They have a Single Parents Club, help those who are evicted and honestly anything they can help with, they do.

“People are very appreciative and supportive of us,” Mayes said about the people Program The Parks helps.

Everyone has a role in making our community better, said Mayes. Whether that’s donating, volunteering or sharing a post, every helping hand counts.

“You have a responsibility to make the world better too,” Mayes said to those who complain but never work towards a solution. “Make a difference in whatever you do.”

This year’s fourth annual RBG Gift Must 2018 well be held on Dec. 24 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sherman Park, with donations still being accepted.

Monetary donations can be sent through paypal at Paypal.me/ProgramTheParks. For more information contact Vaun Mayes on Facebook.

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