After being a previous “smash hit,” the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Food Truck Rally is about to return. The event, which raises funds to help keep young people out of the criminal justice system, is expected to feature various forms of entertainment, including musician Steve Acho.
WEST BLOOMFIELD — After taking a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Food Truck Rally is set to return.
The event, which organizers say takes about eight months to organize, includes music, food, games and vendors, and it is scheduled to take place in the parking lot of Orchard Mall from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. August 26.
The Food Truck Rally is organized in support of West Bloomfield Youth Assistance, which is a non-profit organization that provides professional social assistance services and prevention programs for young people and their families who live in the West Bloomfield school district.
Young people who have had problems with things such as retail fraud, assault, alcohol and drug use, as well as problems at home and/or school, can be referred to the WBYA by schools and the police, as well as parents who have concerns about a child.
Rather than obtaining a criminal record, the WBYA can sometimes offer an alternative for young people.
West Bloomfield Police Department Deputy Chief Curt Lawson is the WBYA Treasurer. He shared an example of the kind of scenario that could get someone into the WBYA program.
“Let’s say a child walks into a store and shoplifts. There are three options: no prosecution; there’s the criminal justice side, where the police come in and they go into the criminal justice system; or the officer decides to place that child in a youth aid diversion program,” Lawson said. “That’s what we recommend for first offenses for smoking, alcohol, marijuana use – kids who might steal or kids who don’t show up for school. … This is where youth support for these lesser crimes can really be a benefit to the child, so that they don’t get a criminal record; they don’t have to enter the criminal justice system. … It’s a diversion program outside of the criminal justice system.
The WBYA program is for ages 18 and under.
Stacy Panini has been a counselor for over 20 years. She is assigned by the Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division and has been with the WBYA since 2009.
It is usually assigned to specific youth cases for nine months or less.
“The program is not designed to be a long-term therapeutic intervention. We will offer short-term counseling and professional social support services, and then if families need longer-term interventions, we will make sure to bring them to these services,” said Panini.
Panini social worker services are provided at West Bloomfield High School and through Zoom.
Lawson said the WBYA’s pass rate is “pretty high” and he called Panini an “outstanding worker”.
“She helped transform the lives of many children, put them on the right path,” Lawson said. “I think sometimes you just need a little correction, especially when you’re a teenager – you get a bit off track. She did a very good job with all her assets at her disposal to put the children back on the right track and make it a success. We don’t see many children reentering the criminal justice system or youth welfare.
Youth assistance programs are offered in various parts of Oakland County and, from Panini’s perspective, this is a game-changer for those who take advantage of them.
“I think if families embrace it, kids take the program seriously and use what’s on offer, it can be hugely successful,” she said. “Countywide it has a significantly high success rate where we see children who have been involved in youth welfare and then we look at the statistics to find out if they have already entered the justice system. for minors. The success of the program is in the high 90% – that they would never see official court involvement.
Lawson said Oakland County District Attorney Karen D. McDonald and West Bloomfield School District Superintendent Dania Bazzi are “big advocates” for youth welfare.
The cost to attend the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Food Truck Rally is $5 per family, with funds raised going to the WBYA program.
“Having financially sound youth aid allows us to help more children in the greater West Bloomfield community, and that’s what it’s all about,” Lawson said. “(An) event like the food truck rally allows us to have the money to do these things, and that’s why it’s such an important event. It’s not just a fun event coming up – you get great food (and) entertainment – but your money goes to a great cause, which is West Bloomfield Youth Assistance.
Lawson expects to have around 17 food trucks at the event, with a variety of food offerings.
Entertainment is expected to include musician Steve Acho, bouncy houses and games for children.
After being a “smashing success” in its first year in 2018, the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Food Truck Rally was brought back the following year. It will be the first rally since 2019.
Lawson said the latest event drew a crowd of nearly 5,000 people.
“I can’t tell you the number of people who came to me, especially the first year, and (were) so grateful that youth aid was able to organize something like this event,” he said. declared. “It brought the community together. … They enjoyed being together; they enjoyed the atmosphere; they appreciated that it was for a good cause. So I think it’s extremely important.
Lawson also added that the West Bloomfield Police Department should be on hand to provide security.
“So it will be a safe community event,” he said.
Panini is also a supporter of the benefits that can come from the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Food Truck Rally.
“For me, the food truck rally is essential,” she said. “This helps us establish additional funding to support children and families in our community through programs. …The food truck rally or other fundraising opportunities give us the opportunity to give back to the community in a variety of ways.
Lawson thanked the sponsors of the West Bloomfield Youth Assistance Food Truck Rally – West Bloomfield Township, the West Bloomfield School District, the towns of Orchard Lake and Keego Harbor, Orchard Mall, US Ice, Maple View party store and Winning Imprints and Custom Trophies.
For more information about West Bloomfield Youth Assistance, visit wbyyouthassistance.org.