By Marissa Willman
Family Health and Support Network, a non-profit foster family agency in the desert, will honor African American culture and heritage this Saturday at its 5th annual Juneteenth event at the La Quinta Resort.
“Juneteenth is an opportunity to honor African American heritage and salute African Americans who have been resilient in their communities,” said FSHN co-founder Sandra Austin.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the date the last African American slaves in the United States were freed. Although President Abraham Lincoln declared slaves were free in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865, with the arrival of union soldiers, that news of the emancipation arrived in Texas.
FSHN commemorates the national holiday with its annual fundraiser. This year, the event will feature distinguished entertainers such as R&B singer Chante Moore and hip hop violinist Lee England Jr.
The Pioneer Awards will also be presented at Saturday’s event to honor individuals who have embodied this year’s event theme of “Building Resilience in African American Families.” Awards will be presented in five categories: human services, education, community, business and entertainment arts.
Guests are encouraged to wear white, Austin said, to create a blank canvas that represents no color lines. The event is open to the public and all nationalities are welcome.
“We’d like for everybody to participate,” Austin said. “It doesn’t matter what nationality you are.”
FHSN functions as a foster family agency that recruits and trains foster parents while also working to place children who have been removed from their homes.
“In addition to being a foster family agency, we provide early prevention and intervention programs,” Austin said.
One such program shares its name with this year’s Juneteenth event, Building Resilience in African American Families, and is sponsored by the Riverside County Department of Mental Health. Through the program, FHSN works to reduce the risk of mental health problems in African American youth while increasing their resiliency and skill development.
“The ‘Building Resilience in African American Families’ program is a program that we’ve been contracted to provide it to the entire valley,” Austin said. “It doesn’t matter what nationality you are. If you work at the Boys and Girls Club, are a teacher or work as a counselor, you’ll be able to refer your clients to this resource because by building resilience in the African American family, we build resilience in the overall community.”
In addition to providing prevention programs, FHSN is searching for volunteers willing to open up their homes for foster children. The number of children needing foster homes far outweighs the number of foster families in the Coachella Valley, Austin said.
“There’s a desperate need for foster parents in the Coachella Valley,” Austin said. “We have had to turn down a substantial number of placements because we don’t have the homes.”
Children who can’t be placed in the valley are placed in other areas of Southern California, such as the Inland Empire or Orange County. Those interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent are invited to meet the FHSN team at Saturday’s event, visit the FHSN website at FHSNet.org or call their office at (760) 340-2442.
2012 Juneteenth in the Coachella Valley
Hosted by Family Health & Support Network
La Quinta Resort, 49-499 Eisenhower Drive
Saturday, June 23rd
VIP Reception, 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:30 p.m.
$125 VIP, $75 general