More than 300 people participated in the fourth annual “God Belongs in My City, New Bedford Prayer Walk” last Saturday. Participants began at City Hall and walked to Buttonwood Park where approximately 2,500 people celebrated at a free family event “I Love My City.”

Organizer Edwin Cartagena, of United New Bedford, began the annual walk and park event four years ago as part of a national initiative. “It is a call to action for the people of New Bedford and the surrounding communities,” he said.

The walk began at noon Saturday at New Bedford City Hall. “There were 14 churches represented this year,” Cartagena said.

The group prayed for the city and its leadership, for its officers, for crime, for racism, those affected by addiction and for those who are homeless. “People on the walk actually put their hands on the outside wall of the Ash Street Jail, including Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, and prayed for the inmates,” Cartagena said.

The walk takes approximately one hour and ends at Buttonwood Park, followed by a free family event “I love my City,” at the park. According to Cartagena, the “I Love My City” gathering is fulfilling two of God’s greatest commandments: to love God and to love people.

Activities for the children included face painting and games. Truebounce brought their bouncy obstacle course with an anti-bullying message.

Real Kids International Ministry from the inner city of Boston was present to share the gospel. They distributed toys and prizes and and played games.

Volunteer Eric Britto organized basketball challenges throughout the afternoon, keeping the courts full of happy teenagers.

On the main stage, live music was provided by top Christian artists including Dave Pettigrew, John Tibbs and the JJ Weeks Band. “We were blessed with a convoy of performers that brought a message of hope to the people,” Cartagena said.

More than 2,000 hot dogs and bags of chips were given out at the event.

According to Cartagena, United New Bedford was formed to bridge the gap between churches as well as between the church and the local community. “We strive to impact the community through uniting, empowering and serving,” he said.

“United New Bedford is a faith-based organization working to bring people together to be the difference in the community through events, prayer walks, trainings, and outreach efforts,” he said.

The organization conducts a monthly adopt a block program, serving 100 families each month. The program now has 80 to 100 volunteers who go into the neighborhoods to help empower people not to live in fear in their community.

“We give them items such as bread, milk, eggs, cereal, baby wipes, baby diapers, and toiletries including toothpaste, toothbrushes and deodorant,” Cartagena said. “We also connect people to local resources depending what their needs are.”

To make a donation or for more information on United New Bedford, call Edwin Cartagena at 508-817-144, visit unitednbma.org or their Facebook page at www.fb.me/unitednbma.