Two years ago, Janice and Lorenzo Hicks launched a series of pop-up shops as a way to give back to the community, bring area residents together with family-friendly activities and raise awareness about local businesses, nonprofit organizations and services that are available in the community.
That effort will continue Saturday with the Union County-Southern Airways (Express) Summer Breeze community party.
The event is set from 1 until 5 p.m. Saturday in Mattocks Park in the area of Detroit Avenue and Burns Street, and promises "food, fun, something for everyone." Admission, food and activities are free and the public is invited.
Summer Breeze will include entertainment and a variety of vendors and nonprofit organizations.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and fishing poles to participate in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Family and Community Fishing Program in the Mattocks Park fishing pond.
Since 2021, Janice and Lorenzo Hicks have hosted a sequence of "breeze" events that take on the name of the season in which they are held, i.e., Summer Breeze, Fall Breeze and Winter Breeze.
The series began in 2021 with a Fall Breeze event at Washington Middle School.
"Our first event, we had at least 20 vendors and that was at Washington Middle School. It's like El Dorado was hungry for it, like they were looking for something like that," Janice said.
Years earlier, the Hickses -- who have owned and operated LegalShield legal protection services and Pac-Man Bail Bond Company, Inc., for 21 years -- made a pact to focus on community service once they had been in business for 10 years.
To further their goal of serving the community, the couple also started a nonprofit organization, Helping Hands Make a Better World, which offers free and low-cost handyman services -- including lawncare, minor home repairs, home alterations for ADA accessibility, etc. -- for senior citizens and single parents.
Janice Hicks explained that events such as the pop-up shops help to offset the cost of services that are provided by Helping Hands.
In addition to bringing the community together for a day of food and fun, the pop-up shops showcase local businesses and other nonprofits and provide educational, career and health care opportunities with mobile services.
For example, the Arkansas Minority Health Commission offered free health screenings during the inaugural "breeze."
On Saturday, Summer Breeze attendees will be able to apply for jobs with Be Pro Be Proud Arkansas, a job development and recruitment initiative that seeks to pair companies with skilled workers in partnerships with local high schools and career centers.
"They have an educational truck and you can do activities on the truck. They typically go to schools. They've never been to a park in El Dorado before," Janice said.
"They'll be coming from Little Rock and bringing their mobile truck and people can come on Saturday to apply for a job, a career. They will have computers on the truck," she continued.
Lifeshare Blood Centers will also conduct a blood drive, Janice said.
Vendors may set up outdoors in Mattocks Park or indoors in the James Johnson Gym, which is adjacent to the park.
The Hickeses are also teaming up with a nonprofit organization to address a serious topic in the community.
"Stop the Violence and Increase the Peace"
Nathan Rainey Sr., who has lost two sons to gun violence, said he wanted to partner with the Summer Breeze event to serve the community and to honor his sons.
Nathan Rainey Jr., 29, was killed in a shooting that occurred last August at Hillsboro Town House Apartments. Another son, 24-year-old Deddrick Williams, was fatally wounded in a shooting nearly 10 years ago in the 1200 block of North Miles.
Rainey Sr. said he plans to invite others who have lost loved ones to acts of violence to impress upon attendees the far-reaching effects violence has on the community.
"When you have lost two sons and you have to keep going, it just becomes frustrating. I'm still in and out of court. On June 18, the guy is supposed to go to court and either take his last plea or take it to a jury trial," Rainey Sr. said, referring to the defendant who was arrested shortly after the shooting last August.
"Sometimes, I just come out at two, three in the morning and just look up at the sky. The only thing I can think of is I wish I was up there," he continued. "All we can do is pray. Time heals and you eventually have to let it go."
Providing local children with fun activities is another reason Rainey reached out to the Hickses, noting that in recent years, family entertainment venues have dwindled in El Dorado.
"They took the skating rink. They took the bowling alley and they took the pool," Rainey said.
With the closures of the Showtime Roller Rink, El Dorado Lanes and the Mattocks Park swimming pool (the city's only public swimming pool was closed and demolished in 2022 due to old age and deterioration) over the past few years, "these kids don't have that to live for like we did growing up," Rainey Sr. said.
He is also working with other community leaders to connect with local juveniles, identify the root causes of the rise in violence among young people in the community and find ways to reach peaceful resolutions to conflicts.
"We've got to get back together as a team. We've just got to step up take our communities back," he said. "You've got to make a starting point."
Janice said Summer Breeze organizers leapt at the chance to provide a platform to address such a consequential issue for the betterment of the community.
Rainey said free hamburgers and seafood will be available to attendees, thanks, in part, to a partnership with Cook's Seafood.
Janice also thanked title sponsor Southern Airways Express for its commitment to Summer Breeze.
The commercial airline is the area's Essential Air Service provider and flies out of South Arkansas Regional Airport.
"And we thank all the vendors who have been a part of it. My thing was we wanted to give back to the community. That was our focus, me and my husband and thank God we've been able to do that," Janice said. "It's grown since we got started and we've seen the growth and success. We want everybody to come out with a good spirit and enjoy themselves."
For more information about Summer Breeze, call Janice Hicks at (870) 562-9434.