“The Park” Has More Than Aspirational Meaning

“The Park” Has More Than Aspirational Meaning

Posted on March 13, 2023 by Ashley Coone, consultant with The Patterson Foundation
Last month, I attended the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of a park that was a huge part of my childhood. I grew up seeing the Louis C. Anderson/Martin Luther King Jr. Park from my front yard. The renovation of “The Park,” the name we always called it growing up, was a long overdue project championed by residents and Building a Village, a local grassroots nonprofit organization. The event was well attended by elected officials, community members, and neighbors. Some of the renovations that will take place include the baseball field, basketball courts, new playground equipment, and picnic tables.

The Louis C. Anderson/Martin Luther King Jr. Park is located behind the historic Smith Brown Gym, which was recently restored to house the Louis and Gloria Flanzer Boy & Girls Club. It is nestled in a predominantly African American community with single-family homes and public housing. Growing up, The Park was the place I would catch the school bus, play with friends, and take dozens of kids my parents fostered to play. Over the years, the park became less of a place for kids with the deterioration of playground equipment and facilities. The park hasn’t received many updates during these years and has basically been forgotten. However, this will soon change thanks to a group of residents whose aspirations wouldn’t let them give up.

This is a project that was made possible by people who care about our community and are willing to work together on creating a restored space where families can benefit. Two people who spoke at the groundbreaking, Shawn Washington of Building A Village and Arcadia City Councilwoman Amber Collins, also attended the Rich Harwood - DeSoto “Solutions to Actions” keynote during a stop in DeSoto. Rich delivered a truly impactful speech and event, bringing together dozens of DeSoto residents. “One of the things I got from Rich’s presentation was that it was important to reach out to other partners in the community and work together,” shared Councilwoman Collins. She plans to “connect with more people in the community to see if more people and businesses would be willing to work together to get better outcomes for the city of Arcadia and benefit more residents, both young and older.”

Washington shared that Building A Village, a grassroots-initiated nonprofit, started attending council meetings and sharing about the need for the park renovations about four years ago. They were steadfast in their advocacy at council meetings and sharing their progress on social media. Councilwoman Collins, recently elected in November 2022, connected with Building A Village and other community members to ask “what they wanted for the park, how families would utilize it, and how it could impact their lives.” Together, along with others, they really are bringing DeSoto “Solutions to Actions” by staying committed to this project.

When I was going through the Harwood Public Innovators Labs seven years ago, my aspiration was for my community to have hope. I aspired for them to have hope that things can be improved, that big projects can happen for our community, etc. I think we are beyond just the hope phase, and that’s a good thing! This project greatly represents what can happen when community members connect with others, contribute their gifts or influence for the greater good, and are relentless.

Of course, there were obstacles, as with any major project. Several factors, including the pandemic, Hurricane Ian, and rising construction and material costs, delayed and attempted to derail this project. However, this aspiration is becoming a reality with some dedicated advocates and the city working together!

Much gratitude to Building A Village, Arcadia City Council, and the community for bringing this much-needed renovation project to fruition. My heart was full of joy this week as I noticed the renovations were underway. My dream is that this will continue to energize the community to find more ways to care, connect, collaborate, contribute, and create great things happening in our small town.

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.