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Trick-or-treaters get masks, sanitizer with candy this year at Halloween block party in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI — Trick-or-Treaters decked-out in costumes and face paint trudged down Krom Avenue in Kalamazoo on Saturday, where they were greeted by volunteers offering masks and hand sanitizer before passing out the treats.

While this year’s events looked a little different, the pandemic didn’t stop Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. from hosting its annual Halloween block party in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood Saturday, Oct. 31.

Hundreds of kids and their parents walked through an aisle of volunteers who passed out handfuls of candy, before leaving the block party stationed at Krom Avenue and Herbert Street, to continue their night knocking on the doors of houses on North Burdick Street.

With many homeowners deciding not to give out candy over concerns it could result in the spread of the coronavirus, Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. said it wanted to offer kids a fun and safe Halloween. The organization is a nonprofit that provides education and entertainment programs and events for youths and their families. The organizations founder, Charles Parker, has been a longtime advocate for kids in Kalamazoo.

Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. board member and Parker’s niece, TaKarra Dunning, wore colorful face paint while handing out candy to dozens of kids Saturday evening.

“We do this every year for the kids on Halloween, no matter what day of the week it’s on, it’s a tradition that my uncle Charles Parker wants to keep alive,” Dunning said. “We just had to make the adjustment for COVID — we haven’t been able to do much programming that we would usually do, so it’s just nice to be able to get out here on a nice Halloween Day.”

Dunning and others passed out masks and offered squirts of hand sanitizer to parents and their children before they were given candy and treats, while DJ Conscious provided music throughout the two-hour event.

Kalamazoo resident Samantha Drew came to the event on Saturday with her two children who have been attending school virtually this year at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Drew said that finding a few hours of fun for her two children to unwind and release some energy has been a challenge.

“Just yesterday I was like, ‘What are we going to do with these kids?’ I’m just thankful that these guys stepped up and did this thing,” Drew said. “They’ve been cooped up in the house doing online school and it really is hard on the kids.”

Drew wasn’t worried about the spread of the virus at Saturday’s outdoor block party, saying events that take the health and safety of everyone into account are important for her kids. She said safety mitigations should be taken seriously as she wants her kids to be able to safely get back to the district for in-person instruction.

“Safety I believe should be our number one — since we have to wear a mask to keep the disease from spreading, I believe we should all wear it, we all just want to be safe,” Drew said.

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