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Improvements for Centralia’s Laura Leake Park


In 2023, the Centralia Juneteenth Committee utilized their annual celebration to partner with Walmart. This effort resulted in the acquisition of $8,000 in grant money donated to the City of Centralia, IL for Laura Leake Park Development.

“Our mission as a local non-profit is to help develop the community we live in. We do this by strengthening economic development, community development, and fostering fellowship,” says Timothia Reid, Centralia Juneteenth event chair.

The Centralia Juneteenth committee works year round to plan the annual celebration hosted at Laura Leake Park. After four years of hosting this community event, Centralia Juneteenth has become the largest Juneteenth celebration in Southern Illinois. This local organization works to celebrate and bring awareness to the purpose of this American holiday through a variety of programs and events that contribute to their overall mission.

“It is such an honor to serve with like minded individuals and engage our community in such a positive manner. I am grateful the focus of this committee is unity and growth through community education and collaboration. I am excited to see this event continue to grow and evolve,” says Gretchen Douglas, Centralia Juneteenth co-chair.

The committee members strive to meet the needs of the Centralia community with a current focus on the northeast side of town between Noleman St., Gragg St., Elm St., and Pleasant St., as recent studies have identified this sector as an underserved area within the Centralia community. The Juneteenth committee will continue, in 2024, to utilize their platform as a vehicle for continued improvements at Laura Leake Park.

“All roads are leading back home to Centralia for the Juneteenth Family Reunion weekend this year! This year, we are calling on our Centralia family, local and abroad, to join us as we continue to be the change we want to see locally,” says Malaya Downey, co-chair.

Planning is well underway for the local non-profit. Local businesses interested in supporting Centralia Juneteenth’s mission are encouraged to contact the organization by emailing centraliajuneteenth@gmail.com or messaging the non-profit on their Centralia Juneteenth Facebook page.

Centralia Juneteenth is a local non-profit that celebrates a national holiday that brings the greater Centralia community together to fellowship, celebrate African-American heritage, and promote economic development and community development.

On June 19, 1865, troops arrived in Galveston, TX, enforcing Lincoln’s proclamation that all enslaved Americans had been freed and the civil war had ended. Upon hearing the news, the once enslaved Americans responded with shock and jubilation. This is the day that birthed “Juneteenth,” short for June 19, America’s second Independence Day.

Juneteenth is a story of liberation, celebration, and new beginnings. This All- American holiday celebrates diversity and a vibrant culture rooted in family, faith, and community.

Pictured are Walmart managers from Centralia and across the Metro East markets presenting the City of Centralia with an $8,000 check at the 2023 Centralia Juneteenth Celebration hosted at Laura Leake Park.

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