By Dylan Deprey
A brisk day and hot cocoa go together like S’mores and a campfire, and Program the Parks brought both to Sherman Park for the third annual Cocoa and Coats event on Sat. Nov. 3.
Families had their pick at piles of coats and winter gear. Mother’s sipped on hot chocolate and chatted as their children tried on coats and snow pants. The avid shouts from the playground equipment was evidence that the children were burning off their sugar rush.
“This is the best day ever mama!” one child exclaimed while toasting a marshmallow over a barbecue pit in his new winter outfit.
Vaun Mayes, Program the Parks founder, said this year’s event was a little harder to raise funds than past years.
In July, Mayes was Federally charged for an alleged firebombing plot of Milwaukee Police District 7 following the Sherman Park uprising in 2016. He denies the charges and has plead not guilty in the case.
“It’s been a rough year in general, but I think a lot of people are still confused and don’t know whether to back off or wait for it to play out,” Mayes said.
Though physical coat donations were low this year, there were several large monetary donations from corporate organizations, like Hupy and Abraham, S.C., and community members.
He used the donations to buy out the coat racks at Goodwill and supply the sweets for the event.
“We usually have the same donors, and it’s mainly five or six people,” Mayes said. “But, it’s keeping us afloat.”
Rick Baron has been a long time Program the Parks supporter. He said he has known Mayes for nearly four years and has seen the changes in Sherman Park.
“I’ve just noticed how hard they work, and how much they care about everyone,” Baron said.
He stopped down to help out and enjoy the event.
“It’s a chilly day and it’s perfect for the S’mores and hot chocolate, it’s well-timed,” Baron said.
Ms. Burns, a community member, heard about the event while at another coat drive and stopped down because only two of her four children were set for the snow. Her children had a small fashion show while trying on their new coats.
“People look at me with four children and think I can take care of them financially all the time, most times I can, but every little bit helps,” Burns said.
Burns and her children enjoyed their new coats along with S’mores and whipped cream topped hot chocolate. She said events like Cocoa and Coats brought the community together.
“It’s good to show that people care about other people and families that aren’t their own,” Burn said.
Mayes has extended his hand in assisting other community groups working to get off the ground, but the events have slowed down.
He added that services like the MKE Single Parents Club, People’s Public Pantry and Community Taskforce are still just as utilized as before.
“These are the same community events we’re doing, they just look a little different this year,” Mayes said.
Program the Parks will be hosting its Christmas Toy Drive on Dec. 24.
For more information on Program the Parks visit: https://www.facebook.com/PTPmke/