The Healthy Jacksonville program has received a grant towards rejuvenating a local park.
Healthy Jacksonville is a partnership program between Passavant Area Hospital, MacMurray College and the SIU School of Medicine with the mission of increasing access to health care for at risk residents in the Jacksonville area.
Lori Hartz, with Healthy Jacksonville said the program started off small, but grew quickly. “The program started in January. The point of the program is to work with people who are not using healthcare in a traditional sense. For example, they may go to the Emergency Room instead of seeing a primary care physician. We initially started working with people to find out why they weren’t set up with a primary care physician and to work with them in their homes and in their neighborhoods to see about situations that may be effecting their health. Our community healthcare workers began working with our neighbors in the northeast quadrant of the city, hoping we might get 15 to 20 clients to get involved in this program. What we found was we have more like 80 clients in our program in this first year.”
Hartz said one of the first things discovered was the need for adequate play and exercise space in the area. Hartz said that many of the playgrounds in Jacksonville have been renovated. However, the residents in the northeast portion of town have to go to Lincoln Elementary School to find a renovated, up-to-date playground. Hartz said that’s pretty far for many children to go without the supervision of their parents or an adult, which led to the selection of Minne Barr Park on East Walnut. Healthy Jacksonville turned their focus into looking for ways they could improve the park, and how to fund it. “We found this grant opportunity through the KA-BOOM Foundation. Their concept is to offer funding to help create safe and fun playplaces for kids. We received a $15,000 grant from them and its funded through Keurig and Dr. Pepper. It’s going to help kickstart our fundraising to get the Minne Barr Project funded.”
The grant will be used towards the purchase of additional playground equipment for the park. New equipment geared for preschool children and teenagers will compliment the existing equipment.
Hartz said that KaBoom, Keurig, and Dr. Pepper provided more than just the funds to help with the project. “They provide all different types of support. They give you some guidelines for how to go about building a playground. We also have a lot of resources in Jacksonville because of all the recent renovations to parks and playgrounds in the area in recent years. We’ve been talking to a lot of people around town. The City of Jacksonville owns that park so we needed to get their blessing to go out and get this grant. We have also talked about partnering with the city, and they are willing to put some financial support into the project, as well.”
Passavant Area Hospital has also pledged to donate toward the park project as well as the possibility of one or more community service organizations that Healthy Jacksonville has been in contact with.
Hartz said they hope to raise around $85,000 to complete the project. Plans include the installation of new lighting, renovating and expanding the basketball courts, and installing new benches and shade structures. The park has been in existence since 1967 and was established by the Jacksonville Children’s Foundation.