Amid the shootings, something ‘beautiful’ in Newburgh

As a train of over 150 marchers in a peace rally began arriving at Delano Hitch-Park on Monday to decry the shooting deaths of two women at a Halloween party in the City of Newburgh on Sunday, they passed a parking lot where pastors Annette and Jose Vasquez, and a small army of volunteers quietly prepared for an event representing a different side of the city.

Three years ago the pastors heard how parents felt the city was too unsafe to take their kids trick-or-treating for Halloween, and how those who took their children to the surrounding towns felt unwanted and were stopped and questioned by police officers.

So the Vasquezes, who pastor Church at the Bridge on Broadway, decided to organize “Trunk or Treat,” an event in which businesses, firefighters and police officers, organizations and residents decorate their car trunks and vehicles, and hand out candy and other treats to kids at Newburgh’s Activity Center.

The event has blossomed, with attendance from the first to second years rising to 1,500 from roughly 900, and the number of decorated trunks increasing from 37 to 56. Over 2,000 were expected at this past Monday’s event, Jose Vasquez said.

The increase in volunteers and kids represents something bigger than just candy, he said. It represents a unique collaboration whose supporters include Newburgh’s recreation department, TEAM Newburgh and businesses from the city and towns.

“It’s a beautiful picture when people can come together – organizations, businesses, people in the community, children, families, government,” he said.

Despite being a city with a large number of children, Newburgh is not a great place for trick-or-treating, said parent Doris Lopez. Some parents worry about safety, and many residents choose not to stock up on treats and open their doors to strangers, she said.

Lopez remembers the first time she and other parents drove to the Town of New Windsor on Halloween. They were met by officers who wanted to know what they were doing in the area, she said.

“It makes you feel unwanted; it doesn’t make you feel welcomed,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong.”

Lopez started bringing her kids to “Trunk or Treat,” but is now is among the residents decorating their trunks and dispensing candy. Also participating are local businesses and organizations, Newburgh’s fire and police departments, and students from Mount Saint Mary College.

Rodolfo Camacho, a Newburgh resident and the owner of Liberty Locksmith, is one of the businesses who have sponsored a trunk all three years. He and his wife decorate their business’ truck for the event.

“We work here and we make money here,” he said. “We try whenever we can to give back to the community.”

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