By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far; let’s go together.”
It’s a mantra that Jarrod Lang, owner of blacc vanilla café on South Street in the City of Newburgh, refers to often, and lives by daily. A lifelong resident of Newburgh, Lang has seen the place he loves go through an ensemble of trials and tribulations over the four decades he has called it home. He also is well versed on the incredible potential and beautiful people it possesses.
“I’m a 44 year veteran of this street corner,” said Lang, as he gazes up South Street from his 197 South Street business. “Coming back to this same spot, where the block and people who raised me are, and giving back is very important to me; I didn’t get all of that as a kid, but I got a great deal from growing up here, something so special about Newburgh, a bond between the people, something people don’t always see.”
Lang, along with his blacc vanilla cafe Community Foundation, have been doing plenty of giving back since their inception. Whatever the need is, especially for the youth, you can be sure Lang and company will be doing their share and much more to lend a hand and as well as their hearts. Saturday, that altruism was on full display at the Foundation’s Second Annual Bike Giveaway, held outside of the café. Here, from around 3-4:30 pm, a large crowd of joyful youth, ranging from around 5 to 15 years old, could be spotted riding their new bicycles as well as selecting an assortment of bicycle apparatus and back-to-school supplies, including knapsacks, socks, bicycle locks, lights and repair kits, as well as wrist bands, off of a nearby table. The bookbags and socks were donated by long-time Newburgh native, Justin Mozgiel of Adidas; while other items were provided by those in the blacc vanilla Foundation and local residents.
As for the bicycles, they were funded by donations; however despite the collected, needed monies for their purchase, another obstacle arose: COVID-19 created a shortage of bicycles, as people are doing all they can these days to enjoy the great outdoors.
“We were trying to get at least 50 bikes, but only were able to get around 12 at first, and most of them were only 20 inch ones for the young kids,” said Lang. “Eventually, we were able to get some more bigger bikes, but we still had less than last year overall.”
In addition to the bicycle, equipment, and knapsack giveaway, youth were also treated to a hamburger, chips and soda lunch, compliments of blacc vanilla’s neighboring business owner, Leon Barrett of Steam Fish Lounge. Close friends with Lang, Barrett also grew up on South Street, and has a shared passion for making it a better place for the next generation.
“I want to show these kids love; they need to know we care about them,” said Barrett. “We need more love here in Newburgh; it can change everything.”
Also chipping in and showing that love was Joe Alvarez of We are Newburgh and Friends, who selflessly gave of his time and resources at the bike event. This Saturday, September 12, he and his group will be delivering back to school supplies to 180 registered children in Newburgh. The annual event, usually held at Downing Park, has now transitioned to a door-to-door one due to the Pandemic; however, the mission has not wavered. Just like Lang and Barrett, Alvarez and We are Newburgh and Friends are all about making the place they love, Newburgh, a better place for all who live there.
Looking at the several youth who were enjoying their new bicycles Saturday at blacc vanilla cafe, Alvarez, a smile crossing his face, said, “I’ll do anything to help make a positive change in this City; it’s so worth it for everyone.”