SUPPORTING EACH OTHER: Juneteenth picnic all about bonding

As 10-year-old Destiny Anderson read her little sister’s raffle ticket, she covered her mouth then smiled with excitement.

Anderson found out her 5-year-old sister, Tiara Sari Cooper, had won one of the two Xbox One’s given away during Wednesday’s Juneteenth annual picnic.

Though Anderson was delighted to know her and her sister are going home with a new gaming system, she said it was more important to build relationships with other children who attended the event hosted by the Black Cultural Council of Odessa at Woodson Park.

"It brings people together," Anderson said.

"The best part about this is that you get to meet new friends and new people that when you grow up and meet that same people, you can be friends."

Anderson said she had won one of the 15 bicycles given away during Saturday’s raffle.

Cooper wasn’t one of the recipients of a bike, but those sad feelings quickly evaporated when she claimed the first of two Xbox One’s donated by Martinez Funeral Home and Crematory. Children also participated in games hosted by the Odessa Police Department.

"I was about to cry," Anderson said. "I didn’t think she was going to win. She was so sad the last time that she didn’t get a bike and I got a bike."

Joel Gonzales, the managing funeral director at Martinez Funeral Home and Crematory, said it’s important to give back to the community, because he knows giving a little bit goes a long way.

Gonzales said he believes the Xbox One’s can be used for educational purposes.

"Our kids are our future," Gonzales said. "They are going to pave the way for us."

Jo Ann Davenport Littleton, the executive director of the BCCO, said the nonprofit organization is already making plans for next year’s Juneteenth.

Davenport Littleton said the biggest change will be increasing the number of meals for the picnic. There were more than 275 people who attended the picnic, which doubled from a year ago. She said those numbers will increase to 500 next year.

In addition to feeding people from the community that come to the picnic, Davenport Littleton also wants to give food to members of the Woodson Boys and Girls Club.

"We doubled from last year and that makes you feel good," Davenport Littleton said. "We really promoted it."

Kathy Miller, 60, was born and raised in Odessa. She said she was attending the picnic with a couple of her grandchildren, but then she further explained that she felt that every child at the event was a grandchild.

Since she has celebrated six decades of Juneteenth, Miller looks forward to this time of the year when the community comes together to show the younger generation what it means to be kind and generous to everyone around them.

"I’m always grateful to see Juneteenth come," Miller said. "The kids learn how to get along with each other and help each other. This is something that teaches them how to share and to become good kids to society. They really love it and it’s fun."