Program staff participated in a local community activity celebrating the past, present and future of the Childs Park community in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
On Saturday, December 10, 2011, the Childs Park Recreation Center and grounds became the site of the inaugural Childs Park Neighborhood Reunion. A community celebration of the people and history of the Childs Park neighborhood, the event envisioned as a way to “Put Neighbor back in the Hood” and get residents to mingle, reminisce and reflect on what made Childs Park a special place for previous generations. The vision and goal of the Childs Park Neighborhood Grassroots Leadership Development Team, a group of community residents and those who support them, is to recreate the feeling of neighborly care and community concern that existed when many of them were younger and growing up. Featuring entertainment, free food, prizes personal and family empowerment information and more, this kickoff event attracted approximately 300 residents, friends and others who recognize the need for communities to work together to achieve a greater good for all.
Brother John Muhammad, President of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association, spoke about his motivation behind the event: “This is about making our neighborhood a better place. It’s about giving our children a better start for their future than we had. Sharing with them and teaching them from the mistakes we made will make it easier for them to succeed faster. This event will help people to know each other, build a report and create an environment of peace, harmony and a desire for growth and positive change.”
The event, a graduation project of the Childs Park Neighborhood Grassroots Leadership Development Program, represents the vision and spirit of class members and supporters of the month-long training pilot launched in partnership by Saint Petersburg Neighborhood Partnership and the University of South Florida Jim Walter Partnership Center. Through the training program, residents enhanced their soft skills while working as a team to implement more technical, project management skills and demonstrate their knowledge of city services in place to coordinate and support improvement projects and facilitate residents’ active participation in making neighborhood improvements. Mayor Bill Foster, Council members Newton and Nurse and many representatives of the city administration team, supported the training and graduation ceremonies.
The Childs Park Neighborhood Reunion was a commitment by training participants to design and deliver a project to make a difference within two months of graduation. “Training, and community needs, stressed a sense of urgency to capitalize on the momentum developing here in Childs Park. As a group, we felt compelled to follow through and demonstrate that action brings rewards. We just kept knocking on doors and making phone calls to get the help we needed to make today happen,” class member Michael Adekunle said. As an employee of the Pinellas County Urban League, he works with residents and organizations to motivate the community to support, promote and participate in personal and neighborhood empowerment activities.
The day’s activities included a rededication and grand reopening of the Childs Park Recreation Center, a community league basketball tournament, games, entertainment, an obstacle course and lots of free food. Young and old alike enjoyed a more friendly, rather than competitive, game of volley ball. However, competition was fierce during the flag football tournament. Children enjoyed face painting, candy apples and bounce houses. Spoken word presentations, edifying original rap songs from SWAG, martial arts displays and a puppet show preceded a community talent showcase from the main stage. Six $25.00 gift cards to Wal-Mart were raffled off throughout the event.