The first speaker at the Garfield Park Block Party gave an address in Korean. The next speaker offered a prayer in Spanish. Then a neighborhood association representative and Eric Beasley, principal of nearby Linus Pauling Middle School, spoke to the crowd of more than 250.
The variety of speakers represented the diversity of the event: the organizers included both the religious, Calvin Presbyterian Church, the Korean Presbyterian Church of Corvallis, and Iglesia Emanuel, and the secular, the Garfield Neighborhood Association.
The event included activities like a bounce house, bubbles, games, and prayer. The food served included Latin cuisine like carne asada, beans, and tortillas, Korean dishes like bulgogi and kimchi, and American hot dogs, chips and watermelon.
The event, held for the third year outside Calvin Presbyterian, was created by the churches as a way to develop connections between the church groups and the Garfield neighborhood. The Garfield Park Neighborhood Association joined this year as a sponsor.
“We are trying to bring together groups that don’t normally spend time together,” said Mark Edwards, a member of Calvin Presbyterian who works with its Acorn Outreach program, which has outreach to immigrant families.
Iglesia Emanuel and Calvin Presbyterian both have strong connections to Acorn, which offers services like English and computer classes, and the churches often collaborate. The Korean Presbyterian Church is connected to the congregations as well because it shares Calvin Presbyterian’s building.
Edwards, a sociology professor at Oregon State University, said that many neighborhoods are segregated by race or language.
“We think this is a great opportunity to go against (segregation),” said Edwards.
Edwards said he thinks that churches can serve a role in bringing people together.
Many people may not have an interest in the church, but recognize that we provide a service to the community,” he said.
Debbie Miller, who attends Calvin Presbyterian, and Celi Hernandez, who attends Iglesia Emanuel, met for the first time at the event, and realized they live near each other and know some of the same people.
“I think this is a great opportunity for people to meet each other, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Miller.
Miller said in addition to realizing they knew some of the same people, they learned they both like raising animals.
“You see you have a lot in common,” she said.
Hernandez attended last year and met another neighbor she now knows well.
“We feel safe because we know people who live near us,” said Hernandez.