Jeri Lewis, organizer of Middletown’s Independence Day Parade, wanted to match the appropriate grand marshal with this year’s theme: “Unity In America.”
It didn’t take Lewis and the parade committee long to make their selection.
“It was a no-brainer,” she said.
She said Deanna Shores, a community activist and former Middletown school board member, was the obvious choice because of her tireless work in the city, and the way she brings people — regardless of their backgrounds — together.
“She’s a positive light,” Lewis said of Shores. “She just pulls people together.”
Shores and Lewis worked together on Safety Council projects and have become good friends, Lewis said. Shores lost her job at the Coalition for a Healthy Middletown when funding was eliminated and she now works as a case manager at Access Counseling.
Shores believes everyone is “redeemable,” said Lewis, who added “that’s how I roll.”
During the parade that started at Woodside Cemetery and ended at Smith Park Tuesday morning, Shores rode in a red Mustang convertible with her two youngest children: Caleb Shores, 8, and Dana Shores, 4. She enjoyed waving to those along the parade route and watching their reactions to the floats and organizations that participated.
“We are in different times, but it’s nice that we have certain traditions,” she said. “There was a sense of pride. Unity is a very complex issue right now.”
When asked to expand on that thought, Shores added: “Different groups are fighting for so many things. There is a little bit of truth to all these things that divide us whether that’s race, gender or political views. We each have our own set of values.”
Community events, she said, show those differences can be pushed aside for the “greater good” of the city.
“To reach the greater goal we must understand the true vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Shores, who served four years on the school board before she wasn’t re-elected. “I love diversity. Even when I don’t agree with someone, I love to engage in conversation. We have to remember that we have the freedom to fight, post things on Facebook. We have the freedom to try to do that.”