By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
On a dreary Sunday morning, Avondale residents gathered in Lincoln Park to pray.
"When we aren't here, alcohol, drugs and all sorts of devious behavior takes place," Michael Cash told the small crowd, "but right now we claim this place for you (God)."
Cash's sermon - and the hymn-singing, hand-clapping worship service that accompanied it - kicked off Avondale Days, a three-day celebration of the Cincinnati neighborhood.
10 a.m.-7 p.m. health and safety fair with free screenings for diabetes, breast and colon cancer. Blood pressure checks and other medical problems.
3 p.m. live entertainment
10 a.m. - 7 p.m. back-to-school wellness checks, safety fair and other events
3 p.m. Talent show
5 p.m. Ice cream social for National Night Out.
This is the sixth year for the event at Lincoln Park, at the corner of Reading Road and Forest Avenue. The event is designed to promote health, spirituality and safety in the Avondale community.
The neighborhood has the largest African-American population in Cincinnati, and the city's second-largest number of retirees, said Fulton Jefferson Jr., vice president of the Avondale Community Council, which is sponsoring the event.
Jefferson said the neighborhood has a deep sense of community, in part because of its 53 churches. So starting Avondale Days with a worship service, picnic and gospel festival was a natural fit.
"It's a way to bring the community together," said Fulton Jefferson Jr., vice president of the Avondale Community Council, which is sponsoring the event.
Cash, pastor of First New Shiloh Baptist Church, led the service that began as rain threatened. But sun broke through the clouds as the choir sang, "We came to worship, we came to glorify your name."
Today, a health fair with free health screenings will be held in the park. On Tuesday, the community will participate in National Night Out, a crime prevention event designed to show criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back against crime.
Avondale has long been plagued by crime, drugs and violence. But Jefferson said Avondale's problems aren't any worse than several other city neighborhoods.
And with more community involvement, "it's a whole lot better," Jefferson said. "We are doing a lot better."
That's why Jefferson, who was born and raised in Avondale, chooses to stay there.
One fresh sign of hope: some new businesses are moving in, including Nanny's Multi-Level Learning Center, which opened a second location on Reading Road.
Sunday, center director Brenda Harris had an information booth at the park to let other residents know about the day care and preschool that her mother began in the '80s in Avondale. "I think that God led my mother here," Harris said. "There is a sense of community here and I want to help the children in this neighborhood prepare for school."
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