Modesto put three hard-working non-profits at the front of Fourth of July Parade
Some Fourth of July parades honor local celebrities, politicians or other prominent citizens as grand marshals. This year’s parade in Modesto was different.
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Instead of a celebrity, organizers decided to put members of three boots-on-the-ground non-profit organizations – Haven Women’s Center, CASA of Stanislaus County and the Modesto Gospel Mission – front and center in the parade as grand marshals.
As someone involved with two of the three non-profits honored, by I can tell you first-hand about that experience. I was asked to ride on the back of a Mercedes Benz. Joining me were two others who find themselves deep in the trenches for little to no pay, hoping to put a dent in the amount of hurt happening in our own backyards. At Haven, we provide a voice for the silenced. We work to bring light to our fellow humans who suffer in the dark.
On this day, our job was to smile, wave and throw out peace signs at thousands of people.
By necessity, our work seldom comes to light or draws attention. That’s why the parade brought me some moments of clarity, if not grace.
As we slowly rolled through downtown, there were shouts of “thank you” and “you changed my life.” Some people ran up to our car, hugged us and told us we had saved their lives, that we had helped their sister, their brother, their mother. I saw real emotion in so many faces; and they probably saw it on mine.
On a beautiful summer day, I could see and hear about the impacts our organization has had and is having. I’m not talented enough as a writer to express the magnitude of what that means for us to hear. But it was moving and important.
Modesto Kiwanis Club brings this red-white-and-blue celebration to our hometown every year. I asked Parade Chairman Jeremiah Williams why they choose non-profits as your grand marshal instead of a celebrity or an athlete or politician.
“Nonprofits are the backbone of our community,” he said. “Choosing them, honoring them, promoting and celebrating them is the least we can do – particularly on our country’s Independence Day.”
On a day our nation sets aside to celebrate our independence, among thousands of red-white-and-blue bedecked kids and flag-waving adults, we were honored to lead the parade just as we’re dedicated to helping those in need in our community.
Jenilyn Dittman is a mother, philanthropist and native Modestan.
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