By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
Teen girls giggled in clusters, and younger children showed off their newly handmade colorful beaded friendship bracelets as adults enjoyed catered barbecue beneath the sheltered pavilion at Eldridge Park Sunday afternoon.
There were plans for sack races and old-fashioned tug of war games, but rain changed those plans at the annual Jack and Jill Fall Family Day, organized by the Missouri City-Sugar Land Chapter. Undaunted, organizers planned a lip-sync contest, bingo and dance music from a deejay to keep the crowd of nearly 200 men, women and children entertained.
It was a time to let children be children, and to celebrate family life in memory of another little girl who did not have the opportunity. Organizers opened the annual celebration with a small memorial ceremony for Carole B. Robertson, the 14-year-old girl who was one of four children killed Sept. 15, 1963, at the 16th Street Baptist Church bomb blast in Birmingham, Ala.
The girl was also a teen member of Jack and Jill of America Inc. Her mother was a regional director for the Southern region and this year chapters across the country decided to hold a September event in honor of Robertson.
The organization has been around since 1938; organized by mothers who wanted to provide opportunities for their families to come together, have play dates and exchanges with children with similar values, explained Marva Rasberry, deputy superintendent at Stafford Municipal School District and a Jack and Jill member. Many of the families are educators, judges, physicians and other professionals.
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is an invitational membership organization of mothers with children ages 2-19, dedicated to “nurturing future African-American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty,” said president Donna Joseph.
“We’ve been around since 1938 and our different age groups do clean-up efforts, we bring them to cultural events. These get-togethers help us to stay connected and organize fundraisers,” she said.
In their last fundraiser, they raised nearly $18,000 for The Covenant House of Houston, a sanctuary for homeless youth under the age of 21.
It’s more than moms involved. John Woodard saw a group of young teen boys at the park and challenged them to a game of tug of war. “Get your five best guys, I’ll bring two” he taunted.
But the rain made the grounds soggy and while two of the teens contemplated the challenge, others headed toward a mobile gaming station that was set up on the parking lot.
The Houston Community College professor found his opening to drop some knowledge on the remaining teens about generational wealth, the importance of saving and investing in the community.
After listening for a while to Woodard, 13-year-old Chase Bell said, “he’s interesting. Gave me something to think about.”
“This day is important because we get to bond and talk with one another and network,” Woodard said.