Saskatoon

Pleasant Hill barbecue sparks challenge to make free meals a new tradition

In a neighbourhood recently shaken by a spate of gang-related violence, a barbecue in the park on Thursday gave Pleasant Hill residents a chance to celebrate their community.

100 Meal Challenge urges non-profits to hold more free community events

Owen Pelletier said community events like the barbecue help build community pride. He holds one of the notes of affirmation being handed out to people in the park. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

In a neighbourhood recently shaken by a spate of gang-related violence, a barbecue in the park on Thursday gave Pleasant Hill residents a chance to celebrate their community.

The free barbecue was organized by Str8 Up, a group that helps people leave gangs, as part of its family literacy program.

Str8 Up served 100 meals and hopes to inspire a series of similar events by challenging other non-profits to follow its lead. Chris Moyah, who is a member of Str8 Up, said it's being called the 100 Meal Challenge.

There was a long line for free hotdogs and burgers in the park. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

"You know there's a lot going on in this community and, you know, this is just another fun way to bring people together in a positive way," said Moyah.

A long line of families, teens and seniors gathered at the park Thursday afternoon.

One person went down the long line that formed for the barbecue handing out inspirational quotes on slips of paper, including one by the motivational speaker Denis Waitley: "Learn from the past, set vivid detailed goals for the future and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now."

Str8 Up members Chris Moyah and Shane Partridge hand out free burgers and hotdogs at the Pleasant Hill Park. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

February and March saw a spike in shootings and stabbings in Pleasant Hill, including the death of 31-year-old Mark Enwaya.

On March 29 a large crowd gathered at an emergency meeting called in response to the gang-related crime.

Owen Pelletier, a newcomer to Pleasant Hill who was at the barbecue, said it is important to have community events to bring the neighbourhood together just for fun.  

"I think the main thing is to show the younger generation, to show the kids that, you know, it's not all negative around here," he said.

Owen Pelletier, a member of Str8 Up, says it's important to come together as a community. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

"There's a lot of positivity and a lot of people who want to do well … if you want to do better there's people here. It's a sense of pride."

Grayson Horse, who recently moved to Saskatoon from the Thunderchild First Nation, said he came across the barbecue accidentally. 

"You could meet new people around. Meet friends here and make new friends too probably, talk to somebody you don't know," said Horse. 

He said the community has been welcoming to him since he moved about two weeks ago. 

About the Author

Alicia Bridges is a digital and broadcast journalist at CBC Saskatoon. Email her at alicia.bridges@cbc.ca.