Inside Look: A day at a non-profit block party celebration

by Monica Fernandez

This past Saturday, August 27, 2022, Red Hen Press had the opportunity to join dozens of other Pasadena nonprofit organizations at the Harambee Block Party, an event hosted by Harambee Ministries to celebrate Pasadena with a day full of music, activities, and community.

The stage for the Harambee Block Party

I was first introduced to Harambee Ministries and their work through a nonprofit mixer that took place earlier this year, where they invited Pasadena-area nonprofit organizations to meet each other, network, and build community and connections. The mixer, which took place at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 4, was definitely a party as the hosts made sure their guests had food, libations, and plenty of opportunities to talk to one another.

It was certainly a fun and impressive event, which opened my eyes and many of the other guests’ eyes, to the vast scope of nonprofit organizations in the community that many of us weren’t even aware of. So when we were invited to take part in Harambee’s Block Party, it was a no-brainer!

I welcome as many opportunities as we are granted to share more information about Red Hen Press. As Media Director, I truly enjoy spreading the word about our organization and seeing the light in people’s eyes as I describe what we do and the kinds of books we offer. With the block party taking place just a few blocks away from Red Hen’s offices, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity! Here’s an inside-look at what I got up to at this fantastic event.

My trunk full of supplies and books for the Harambee Block Party

9:30 am: Arrive at Red Hen Press offices to pick up the supplies

Since the block party was taking place literally three blocks east of Red Hen’s offices, I elected to simply pick up the materials from our offices, as opposed to loading them in my car at the end of the day on Thursday and having them sit there for a day in my hot car.

What do you normally bring to a tabling event like this? It definitely varies per event! A few key items we must always have, though, are the following:

Besides those three key items, in this case, I also brought plenty of books. My goal was to distribute as many books as I could bring to the community, especially to those who might not have heard of Red Hen before. At places like book festivals, we would normally sell our books. But at community events like this, we were completely happy to give them away for free.

10:15 am: Finish Setting Up

Me at our finished booth setup! Shoutout to the friends at Hoving Home for getting this shot!

It took about 45 minutes for me to haul those boxes from my car to our booth (two trips!) and set everything up. I do enjoy setting up displays like this. I used to work at a HomeGoods store, and I always loved creating end-cap and table displays for featured and themed items. Visual creativity ftw!

11:00 am: Event officially opens!

11:45 am: Opening Ceremony begins

The Block Party was also a celebration for Harambee Ministries’ 40th Anniversary, so they had some fantastic opening remarks and a performance by the Harambee Youth!

12:36 pm: A grad student comes by, and leaves ecstatic and grateful for free books

It’s always so great to introduce new people to Red Hen. Most of the people who stopped by the table hadn’t even heard of us, let alone realized we were only three blocks down the street! One particular person came by and chatted with me, excited about the books I had on display. When I told them the books were free, their eyes lit up! They asked for recommendations and took two novels, and told me they were a grad student and was really appreciative for free stuff, especially books!

1:00 pm: Food Truck Check

Outside of the main stage area, two local food trucks also came to the party! Dina’s Dumplings, which I’ve wanted to try forever, and Ramirez Tacos, a food truck we once had host an event for us for LitFest Pasadena, with excellent Mexican food. At 1:00 pm I quickly left the table to check out the lines and see if I could grab a bite. I didn’t mind being away from the table for a few minutes, especially since everything was free anyway. But once I reached the trucks, I realized it likely would have been a 15–20 minute wait for food, and I was too anxious to be away for so long, so I traipsed back to the table. I’d brought a protein bar anyway, which filled me right up!

Dina’s Dumplings and Ramirez Tacos came to cater the event!

1:45 pm: Adorable kid wins raffle

Part of the festivities of this block party included a raffle for gift cards for attendees! Before the event began, all vendors were given a number of blue raffle tickets to hand out to anyone that stopped by their booth to chat. Before this raffle winner was announced, this kid had gone by all of the booths asking for extra raffle tickets. He definitely wanted to win! After a few ticket calls with no winners, one of his claimed tickets finally won. He even did a victory lap around the vendors to celebrate! It was an adorable and exciting moment in the day.

1:56 pm: Dog sighting!

What’s a block party without a dog sighting? These two puppers were hamming it up for attention, and their owner and I had a great chat about books and writing when he came along to the Red Hen booth

These two puppers were the most adorable visitors to the Red Hen booth!

2:30 pm: Breakdown + remaining books donated!

Vendors were told that around 2:30, we could begin to break down. I was waiting for 2:30 on the dot, though many vendors around me were already packing up before then! As I was putting away the smaller materials like bookstands, tattoos, and flyers, someone came up and was very excited about the books that I still had left. Of all of the visitors to my table that day, she was the one that grabbed the most books, which I was thrilled about! She took away maybe six or seven books in a bag, and I let her know she was doing me a huge favor taking the books off my hands, as I really was hoping to get these books into the hands of more community members! She then offered to take everything that was left — a whole box full of books, multiple copies of several titles! She said she was from a women’s shelter, and that she could set the rest of the books out for the women to take. I was ecstatic — exactly the kind of community engagement I was hoping for! I happily packed the rest of the books up into a box and thanked her for helping get these books into the hands of new readers. I wasn’t able to catch her name, or the name of the shelter, unfortunately, so if I’m talking about you, please reach out and let me know! (And if you, reader, know of any other organizations that might like to take bulk book donations, please reach out as well! We have so many books we want to get into the hands of readers!)

2:51pm: Drop-off

Since I didn’t have any books to bring back to the Press, it was just the press materials and bookstands that I had to bring back, which I dropped off at the office before heading back home. Whew!

A tired and sweaty me enjoying the A/C in my apartment after a long day!

Overall, it was a fantastic event. It was so fun to be amongst the clearly very engaged community of Harambee Ministries, and offer some new stories and poetry collections to hopefully some new Red Hen Press fans. We’d like to thank Harambee Ministries for extending the invitation and encouraging Pasadena nonprofits to engage with each other, and collaborate more with each other! I never knew there were so many of us, serving so many different missions, but all of us working to make our community, and the world, a better place. Forever grateful for the opportunities to connect!

If you have any questions about what else we might get up to or what it’s like to “work a booth” at an event or festival like this, leave us a comment!



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Red Hen Press

Nonprofit independent literary publisher aiming to amplify unheard and underrepresented voices and improve literacy in schools.