Blend a summer day –– in this case Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 –– with nearly 4,000 people and 71 community agencies at Spring Valley park. Stir in great entertainment and food with opportunities to make connections, and you have the 2011 Ultimate Family Reunion sponsored by the Kalamazoo organization Mothers of Hope.

According to its board chair Gwen Lanier, Mothers of Hope was founded to empower women recovering from substance abuse, restore families and enhance their lives. Mothers of Hope is best known for its grassroots activities and the positive connections it has established throughout the community.

Mothers of Hope holds it Ultimate Family Reunion on the first Saturday in August. Now in its fifth year, the annual event offers free food, live entertainment and a lot of information about the services and resources provided by area agencies and organizations. It is an opportunity for community agencies to collaborate, reach out and inform people –– all in a fun, family reunion type of atmosphere.

This year's theme was education and health. "Our primary goal each year is to provide an event where the public can connect with resources in the community that will enhance their lives and help build strong community ties," says Lanier. "This year we emphasized health and literacy/education."

She continues, "At Mothers of Hope we want to get children 'Promise ready,' Many minority students are signing up for The Kalamazoo Promise, but they don't stay on board because they haven't been correctly prepared for the experience. This year's Ultimate Family Reunion was just one way to expose children and their families to resources that will help them become fully Promise-ready."

A Good Neighbor Grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation was used to purchase food and supplies for the 2011 Ultimate Family Reunion. You can see photos of the event on our Facebook page.