By Cody Owens
There was a boom heard around the world, or at the very least throughout Ensley, on Saturday for the 12th annual Party With a Purpose hosted by Councilor Steven Hoyt.
This year’s event culminated in a pyrotechnics display followed by hundreds of balloons being released into the sky as excited children cheered and watched them float over the horizon. It was an amazing sight to see thousands of people come out and enjoy the purpose-driven festivities that serve as a yearly reminder of what community is all about.
Following a tragic event over a decade ago that left two people dead, Hoyt was invited to a candlelight vigil. “It was there that I said to myself, ‘What do we do when we blow out the candles?’ God gave me this vision to have this day of purpose, this day of empowerment. I wanted to have an event that actually impacted the community and yielded wonderful results,” Hoyt said as Michael Jackson’s “Wanna be Startin’ Somethin’” blasted through the speakers and people danced all around.
While the event was started 12 years ago, it has ballooned into something bigger than even Hoyt had originally imagined. The day brought together over 150 partnerships and sponsors from organizations such as The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Alabama Power, voter registration booths, a mobile blood donation center, health screenings and more.
It should be noted that the event is absolutely free and open to the public.
Thousands of hot dogs, chicken wings, ice cream sandwiches and all kinds of food were given out to anyone willing to come and enjoy the party.
Perhaps most importantly, there were a plethora of job fair opportunities for individuals to be able to not only apply for positions with Mercedes (who is hiring up to 200 people who applied) and other major companies, but there was also an area for people who needed help putting together and printing resumes for other jobs.
“Last year we had over 28 people give blood,” Hoyt said. “That’s very significant because one pint of blood can save up to three lives. We’re trying to do our part.” This year both Hoyt and Councilor Darrell O’Quinn took part in the blood drive. The councilors had to wait in line to do so because so many people were eager to help do their part to save a life.
“It’s always my goal to make this event better,” Hoyt said. “I can’t thank my staff and the mayor enough for making this happen. Like I’ve said, this isn’t just about having fun, this is about giving people an opportunity to improve their lives and their health. We want to change as many lives as possible.”
One such person in the community who has been making an effort to improve the quality of life for those in Ensley is Anthony Marino, who serves as the chairman of Party With A Purpose and owns several grocery stores in an area where fresh produce is hard to come by otherwise.
“The first year we just got people out here and let them know we love them,” Marino said. “Now we have a way for people to get their eyes checked, their cholesterol, blood pressure, all of that…We take care of everyone here, ages one to 100. I believe in what we’re doing. Six years ago I branched out to do Education With A Purpose. So far we’ve given $55,000 in scholarships to seniors within the Birmingham City School system.”
After the “Big Boom” Hoyt and others took to the stage to give away televisions, microwaves, bicycles and all sorts of prizes that people had entered their name to win. A young girl’s name was called in the drawing for the television and the excitement on her face reminded Hoyt of what the event is all about: giving people an opportunity to access things they didn’t have before. And that, he said, is his real purpose in life.