Local community figures come together to bring a healthy and safe alternative to children

Nov. 13, 2014

Michael Isberto | Staff Writer

As a child who grew up in Riverside, Raymond Aguirre experienced first hand how community leaders can make a difference in a child’s life. Now Aguirre is paying it forward as the Bryant Park and Arlanza Community Center supervisor and is doing the same for the next generation of children.

“Raymond Aguirre has worked here for many years,” said Jim Perry, Riverside City Council member. “He’s a product of the neighborhood. He knows the neighborhood, and they know him.”

For as long as Aguirre can remember, the neighborhood has always come together to celebrate the holidays.

This year, the Riverside Halloween Carnival was held on Oct. 31 in Bryant Park. This is just one of the events the community has planned for the holiday season.

“Our main goal is to keep the kids off the streets,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre grew up in the city of Riverside in one of the nearby neighborhoods and he has taken it upon himself to make sure the children have somewhere safe to go for Halloween.

Many of the families in the neighborhood trust Aguirre and the Arlanza Community Center as a whole when it comes to somewhere their children can go spend some time.

“We’ve known of Raymond for quite a while now,” said Romerson Flores, carnival attendee. “He’s very involved with our particular community, and events like the one tonight are great for everyone. Halloween’s fun but it’s not always safe to let kids walk around going from door to door, and I’m not very comfortable answering the door to my home to just anyone as well. So this is great.”

The Riverside Carnival gave families a safe alternative way to spend Halloween, with games and rides.

They also had a dance program and a costume contest for all the children who dressed up, and they handed out award trophies to the children with the best costumes. They also provided free hot dogs for all that came with an appetite.

“We partner with our parks and recreation department to put on community events,” Perry said. “This is a great community event where we try to bring the community together in a centralized location, where children, parents, teenagers and everyone within the community can have a one stop shopping center where they come for entertainment and are able to celebrate a holiday. All the games are provided by the parks and recreation department and it’s all being manned by volunteers from the community.”

The Riverside Halloween Carnival attendees described the event as a safe way to spend the holiday. Since the Arlanza Community Center promotes health and fitness they provided healthy treats for the children. Instead of candy, they handed out bags of trail mix and toothbrushes for the trick-or-treaters.

“My kids weren’t too thrilled about the toothbrushes,” said Josephine Martin, carnival attendee. “But they didn’t mind the fruit and nut bag. I thought it was all great. My kids already had too much candy today. So I like the healthy options they gave. I think the hot dogs may have been turkey dogs too.”

When community leaders take the time and make an effort to take care of the neighborhood, it makes an enormous difference in the lives of everyone.

Aguirre was once just another child in the neighborhood but because someone took the time and made a difference in his life, he has come full circle and is now doing the same in taking care of the next generation of children.

“It’s been going on for more than 10 years,” Perry said. “It moves around from park to park so everyone can participate and host it. It tends to grow every year. We try to do something different. We try to add things every year. We try to make it new and refreshing each time somebody comes out.”

It may seem like just another holiday event, but there is more to it than just another fun night for the family. Events like the Riverside Halloween Carnival instill a sense of community and belonging to the neighborhood and those who belong to it.

Because of events like these, one of the children who attended may grow up to be the next community leader.

“We’re all very grateful for what the community center does for our kids and for our community,” said attendee Amanda Baker. “Our kids have somewhere safe to go hang out. Being involved with it gives them a sense of accomplishment and hopefully a bright future
ahead them.”