Mid-Summer Picnic Delivers Delicious Food and Lasting Fun

  • Cori, a Pathways to Housing PA participants enjoys our annual Picnic,that is partially funded from businesses in the community.
    Cori excitedly grabs a plate at this years mid-summer picnic.
  • Pathways to Housing PA works with participants on community integration.
    Evie brings amazing energy to her work at Pathways, even when that work is as simple as serving up fresh, grilled corn.
  • Pathways to Housing PA works on social workers focus on social building skills with our participants.
    Pete and Keith (left to right) enjoy some delicious food at the 2017 mid-summer picnic.
  • Pathways to Housing PA holds annual picnic with thanks to community business and members who donate food, and prizes for our participants.
    Participants wait eagerly as manager of community integration Rob Wetherington prepares to call out winning raffle tickets.

A chatter of voices rises to the roof of the high school gymnasium. Participants talk and joke as they filter through the line, holding out their plates for a hot spoon full of homemade mac & cheese, some grilled hot dogs and corn, or a serving of cool sliced fruit. “This mac & cheese-it’s the best thing here,” says one participant. Another shakes their head and points to the Puerto Rican rice and beans-clearly indicating that this is where it’s at.

The Pathways community is gathered together for the mid-summer picnic. This annual event began years ago as a way to honor the hard work participants have done to create new lives indoors. It was originally a brown-bag lunch hosted at Rittenhouse square, and over the years the fun has expanded to include field games, barbequing and raffle prizes. 

The picnic is made possible by a number of generous partners. One landlord donated the rice and beans that were such a hit, others prepared casseroles and salads, and Mary Ann, a long-time Pathways supporter, donated money to help make the raffle gifts and field games possible. You can help support life-giving events like this one by reaching out to us here.

The mid-summer picnic is one of several activities led by Pathways’ innovative community integration department, which works to help participants move beyond our services to build a meaningful life of their own. Themes range from money management and personal fitness to gardening and volunteerism. These skills help participants shift their focus from merely being stable to developing a thriving new life.

This year the picnic was assailed by a host of unforeseen weather events. Originally on the calendar for early-July, it was moved when the forecast promised heavy thunderstorms and large gusts of wind. The postponed date of July 21st wasn't much better, clocking in at 95-degrees in the middle of the hottest week of the summer. Thanks to some quick work on the part of our executive staff, a neighboring high school gym was conscripted for shade and the festivities proceeded undeterred.

As the food line slows, participants settle down to talk with each other and finish their second helpings, and the raffle begins. “729-392,” the voice of manager of community integration Rob Wetherington booms across the gym. “729-392.” “That’s me, that’s me!” a middle-aged woman yells from the crowd. She jumps up and comes forward to proudly claim her prize, a small, colorful box tantalizingly wrapped to obscure the contents.

The woman never opens her package, leaving curious watchers wondering what was in the wrapped box. For others, the day's take away is clearer: participants leave together, planning excitedly for the rest of the week. Others sigh contentedly as they clean their plates of second and third helpings of delicious food, hand-made just for them. Still others leave quietly, thoughtful, digesting how to feel about so many humans in the same space.

One participant, early in the day seated with a plateful of food, said it best. “Pathways is like my family. For real-y’all like my family." What else should a family do on a beautiful, hot summer day but grill some hot dogs, open cold sodas, and sit down to enjoy some quality time together?

If this event inspires you, connect with us here to become a partner in bringing new visions to life. Your donations make a difference in the lives of formerly homeless men and women. 

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About the Author

Becca DeWhitt is an MBA candidate at Temple University. She is passionate about creating a world where everyone's experience and perspective is valued, and sees story-telling as a powerful tool to that end.