By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Being a Milwaukee resident has its highlights and its setbacks, fortunately, one of the aspects that makes it great is its community outreach. Last week, the Milwaukee County Office on African American Affairs (OAAA) along with Community Vanguard organized a resource fair for people in need of some help.
“We want to be able to offer resources free of cost,” said OAAA Director Nicole Brookshire.
The resource fair, housed inside the Lincoln Park Pavilion, included organizations from all over Milwaukee. Members behind each booth were ready to answer whatever questions people might have regarding voting, job fairs, gun safety and more.
In addition, children were offered free haircuts and the chance to roller skate around the parking lot.
“The goal was to involve everybody in the community,” said Kevin Barnes from Community Vanguard.
Given that it was the fair’s first year, Brookshire and Barnes were noting what worked well and what could use improvement.
After visitors signed in and entered the fair, they were greeted with a plethora of options. Brookshire said some of the groups had worked with OAAA in the past whereas others she connected with on Juneteenth Day.
Behind one of the first tables sat County Clerk George Christenson. His booth offered information on voting and helped people register to vote.
“People are afraid it’s difficult,” Christenson said on the common misconceptions surrounding voting.
He added that registering to vote is easy and that there needs to be a continued education on the electoral process so people feel more confident when entering a voting booth.
Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative was another table. Amanda Williams explained that this organization offers programs to strengthen the relationships between fathers and their children.
It can help men with their housing, credit repair and driver’s license. It also offers focus groups to help strengthen the relationship between parents, Williams said.
In addition to the resources provided, “Different resources can connect,” she said, and through that connection, they can help more people.
Amidst the tables, was one for the Sheriff’s Office Community Relations. Deputy Kristine Camarillo was one of four officers ready to answer questions and talk to residents.
According to Camarillo, they decided to attend the fair to help promote access to resources and because they believe it’s important to participate in community and youth events.
Attending events like these gives people an opportunity to have a more positive interaction with the police and opens a line of communication. Camarillo said, she and her fellow officers high-fived younger kids, and even talked to some troubled youth.
She added that one way to promote a safe environment where people feel secure is to report on any wrongdoings in one’s area.
“I think that if you see something, say something,” she said
With the first official and annual resource fair complete, Brookshire and Barnes are looking forward to planning their next one. To find out when it’s happening visit the OAAA’s Facebook page.