New plaza opens in SW Fresno, a space to invest in the community

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Purple and gold are the colors of Christmas this year in Southwest Fresno and the kids are loving it.

"I got a backpack. I got a gingerbread house."

Candy gingerbread trees grew under one tent, Fresno Police gave out coffee and breakfast under another, and Santa Claus posed for pictures before revealing his secret identity as Saint Rest Baptist Church pastor DJ Criner.

He's a driving force behind this new plaza a few hundred feet from his church.

The city and Habitat for Humanity helped members build it in less than two months -- with an eye on holding farmers markets, movies, concerts, and block parties within the confines of the plaza's gates.

RELATED: Saint Rest Baptist Church members build lasting impact with new plaza

"So that families and communities can feel safe but also feel the same love that other sides of town have. So we kind of mimicked what SF and Boston have which is a whole lot of outside plazas that were built by the community," said pastor DJ Criner.

The sweat equity of doing the construction is their investment in the plaza, and the idea is: if you invest in something, you take care of it.

"We need more of these kind of these kind of groups to show how strong this community is. You know, it supports itself and any time the city of Fresno can lend a helping hand I'm willing to be here," said Mayor Lee Brand.

And after hearing wish lists from dozens of kids, this Santa is hoping for a gift of his own.

"Santa had a conversation with Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ told Santa it's needed for a park in west Fresno. So right there behind us on this artificial turf behind us will be a park for our community," pastor Criner said.

Criner is planning to build that park between the plaza and the church with a resource center where kids can learn English as a second language or computer programming. Programs you might normally see in North Fresno, but which -- like this party -- represent a special gift to the kids of Southwest Fresno.
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