After a year of uncertainty, the residents of the Leesburg Mobile Home Park held a community-wide picnic May 1 with the property’s new owner David Gregory and local nonprofit INMED USA.
With the long-time owners of the property putting the land up for sale, residents had worried about development plans that would have forced them to move. Once that deal fell through in the face of community opposition, Joe Serafin of Serafin Real Estate worked with Gregory to purchase and preserve the property.
“So many of us want to keep the community stable and where it is,” Serafin said. “Together, we took the Town of Leesburg and the residents off of what could have been a collision course. Dave is going above and beyond to make sure the residents have a great place to live.”
As a partner of INMED USA, Gregory reached out to U.S. Programs Director Jennifer Lassiter Smith to help him engage with residents on their community’s future.
“INMED already works with many families in the park, and we are honored to build the support network to help the community thrive moving forward,” Smith said. “As we learn more about their needs, INMED will bridge the gaps and work with the residents in programs that build a sustainable future for the families.”
Smith said there is a new feeling of optimism and hope.
During the May 1 event, participants in INMED USA’s entrepreneurship program served homemade pupusas, beans and rice from their startup catering company. Children who attend INMED’s after-school and teen programs dressed in colorful attire to entertain residents with traditional dances and hip-hop numbers. INMED staff and volunteers served snow cones and snacks. INMED community partners also set up tables to share information about helpful resources. Among them, BCT-Bank of Charles Town has been working with INMED USA to provide free financial literacy classes for low-income adults.
Representatives of the Leesburg Diversity Commission and the Leesburg Police Department led games and activities.
“Our officers had a lot of fun with the kids, especially leading tours of the inside of a police car and taking pictures with the families,” said Sgt. Wael Abilmona. “Most importantly, we got to know the community and they got to know us. With the assistance of Officer Castro, who translated our message to everyone, we stressed the importance of developing a partnership with the police and the police having a positive partnership with the community.”
Building trust is a priority for the community moving forward, said Linda McCray, chairwoman of the Leesburg Diversity Commission, which serves as a liaison for the Leesburg Police Department and other local agencies. “Our mission is to help foster diversity and inclusion within the community at large. The event truly embodied the spirit of inclusiveness, community and what is possible.”