Niles hosts march for census awareness

NILES — In the summer heat and sun, a group of families with children, police officers and community leaders gathered at 2:30 p.m. at New Vision Apostolic Faith Assembly, at 819 Lake St.

Those gathered came to hold signs touting the importance of the 2020 Census and to do a short march to bring attention to remind people who may not have filed their form yet.

The gathering drew around 20 people, including families with children, neighbors, police officers and a city council member to the cause. The youngest participant was in a shaded stroller for the brief march. The group walked together down Lake Street toward North Fifth Street and back. The officers helped the marchers cross Lake Street as they returned back to the church, where a Berrien County Sheriff’s Office car had its siren going continuously to raise attention to the march.

The organizer, Niles city council member Georgia Boggs, carried an American flag as she brought up the end of the marching line. Boggs said the march was a way to engage the neighborhood, and involve the children in something they will need to remember in the future.

“We’re doing it to make the children aware of the census,” Boggs said. “What the census is going to be used for and why everybody should be counted.”

The census is done in the U.S. every 10 years to count every person living in the country. The counts are used to divvy up state and federal funding to community resources like fire and police departments and education. The count also helps assign government representation to areas with more and less people than in the last counts.

With students going back to school, virtually or in-person, by the beginning of next week, Boggs said this was the last chance to keep her neighborhood’s children involved before census counting efforts end in September.

“We want to make sure that they are aware, and there are people who are concerned with the census,” she said.

Carla Burrel participated in the march.

“There is only one [census] every 10 years,” Burrel said. “The first was in 1790, so there has only been 24 of them. It’s really not a lot, so we just want everyone to be aware of the importance of being counted.”

Boggs said the children who marched wanted to become involved with the census, after learning more about it as their families filled out the form. She wanted to organize an event, but keep it safe for participants due to COVID-19. She decided an outdoor march was a safe way to put on an event. She arranged for law enforcement officers representing the Niles Police Department, Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police Niles Post #53 to be in attendance and march with the group.

“It’s a community effort,” Boggs said. “We’re trying to get people to check o their next door neighbor and really be responsible.”

As for the children involved, Boggs hoped, in the future, they will remember this event.

“This is going to happen 10 years from now, and they will remember that this is something [they] need to do,” she said.

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