'One community. One center.' Haitian Development Center kickoff event set for Salisbury – Delmarva Daily Times

SALISBURY, Md.— The past pandemic year has been one full of loss and isolation across much of Delmarva’s Haitian community.
But one organizer hopes May 23 might mark an opportunity to celebrate something again — and bring the culture close to his heart out in the open.
“We didn’t even know whether it was going to be possible,” said Senior Pastor Roosevelt Toussaint, in the warm air of his third-story office. “Now that COVID-19 is slowing down, the entire downtown is going to be closed for us.”
The grand opening of the Haitian Development Center of Delmarva is set to combine with a belated Haitian Flag Day celebration on May 23, from 3 to 7 p.m. in downtown Salisbury. The center’s work has already been taking shape for over three years, Toussaint said, but will finally get an official location at 212 W. Main St., Suite 302. 
“We’ll have other Haitian artists that will be there to sing Haitian music. We’re going to have also Haitian food,” the Word of Life ministries founder continued. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to be exposed to the public, so that they will know that we exist.”
Organizers hope to host many special guests to help kick off the event — including Ambassador Bocchit Edmond, a diplomat of 29 years and the ambassador of Haiti to the United States. Local leaders like Salisbury Mayor Jake Day and community members are also expected to speak, according to Toussaint. 
After the center and its coming services — from English learning and immigration assistance, to health, technology and financial literacy — are introduced, Toussaint says informational tables, vendors and entertainers are planned to keep people celebrating.
“So we’re going to use the Flag Day approach to have our grand opening, as everybody’s going to come to celebrate our culture, then: ‘Yes, thank you for being here; there is a center at your disposal, a center that is going to open to help you.’ “
“We call it ‘One community. One center.’ “
The Development Center’s team hopes to see faces from across Delmarva’s Haitian community at Sunday’s event, to celebrate their culture and safely come together in an outdoor event. 
Toussaint knows how hard the past year has been.
The pastor had to serve multiple funerals for Haitian men and women who lost battles with the coronavirus. Some were not members of his church, but their families turned to him.
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“The saddest thing about it was only five people could attend, as we know, and this isn’t typical with a Haitian funeral,” Toussaint said, noting with a gentle smile that virtually the entire faith community might show up.
“So COVID really taught us so much. Personally, COVID-19 taught me that you can be here today and gone tomorrow. So whatever you can do today, do it. You may have another chance to do anything else.”
What: The Haitian Development Center of Delmarva Grand Opening Celebration 
When: Sunday, May 23, 3 to 7 p.m.
Where: 125 N. Division St., Downtown Salisbury


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