by Emily Williamson
Children deserve a safe and fun Halloween.
For the past several years Rainier Avenue Church, where I am a member, has hosted a ‘Trunk or Treat’ the Wednesday before Halloween. We invite our neighbors to come collect candy from the back of cars we decorate in our church parking lot.
This year, our lead pastor asked our community development team to look for ways we as a church could be more out in our neighborhood. One of the ways we found to do this was to partner with a community Halloween event that had already been established: Boo Bash at the Beach held in the Safeway parking lot at Rainier Beach. Since the event began three years ago, crime has decreased and shootings have been nonexistent in Rainier Beach on Halloween.
Our community development team leader called up the organizer of Boo Bash and asked if we could bring a couple of our cars to the event. She was delighted to hear from us, having reached out to over a dozen churches and either failed to hear back at all or received negative replies.
“Bring all of your trunks,” she said.
I decided not only to volunteer but also co-host a trunk after a conversation with a woman at Emerald City Bible Fellowship, where my office is located, one dreary Friday evening.
“How are you?” I asked, as I grabbed my lunch bag out of the fridge.
“I’m depressed,” she replied. “I keep offering to volunteer for things and no one ever replies back to me.”
“Come join the community development team. We’d love to have you. And we’ll be taking our ‘Trunk or Treat’ to Boo Bash this year.”
“Trunk or Treat?” her eyes lit up like a jack-o-lantern.
“Oh, I used to do those every year when I lived in Colorado. I LOVE ‘Trunk Or Treat’! I like to convert the back of my van into fishing-for-prizes.”
“Sounds great. I’ve never done ‘Trunk Or Treat’ before,” I replied. “Ok if I co-host with you?”
The day of the event my co-host emailed to say she was sick and had to go to the doctor. I arrived to Safeway’s parking lot mid-afternoon anyway to help set up.
“Need any help setting up your trunk?” I asked Pastor Peter.
“No, I’m good.”
I found Cindi, the Boo Bash organizer, and askedif I could help with anything.
“Yes, we need to set up a craft table,” she said, collecting an armful of supplies.
“Girls, take these supplies and set up the table,” a lady overseeing a squad of cheerleader volunteers said as she grabbed the supplies. Earlier she and her girls had taken over the task of setting out chairs I had begun. She seemed to guard their volunteering like a watch dog. I looked down at my pink camo jacket and black rubber boots—attempt as dressing like a fisher to accompany the non-existent fishing-for-prizes van—and realized how out-of-place I looked. Perhaps she had overhead me joking in my Southern dialect earlier and didn’t want to let a white woman come do what long-time residents could do for themselves.
“My name is Emily, what’s yours?” I attempted to forge camaraderie.
“Coach T.” She turned back towards her girls.
“And set out these flyers,” Cindi said, pulling out a stack of papers.
“Girls, set out these out” Coach T said grabbing the stack and handing them to her squad.
I was beginning to wonder if I should have just stayed at the office rather than take off early and work Saturday to compensate my hours. But eventually Coach T and her girls were preoccupied with tasks and Cindi was able to give me and another volunteer a role hanging banners. Later Cindi asked me to go pick up a box of supplies she had forgotten. By the time I returned, families had arrived so I wandered between trunks giving breaks to the other hosts. One of these was Les Miserables-themed and featured blank white flags kids could write or draw their hopes and prayers on for making the world a better place. The children’s hopes included:
“Make People Stop Fighting.”
“I could make the world a better place by planting and growing trees.”
“Jesus”one wrote in the center of a cross.
The children’s expressions give me hope that our world can be a better place, starting in our own community with fun, safe events like Boo Bash.
Featured image by Emily Williamson