Representatives of Jacksonville Memorial Hospital, Kiwanis, the Rotary, the local NAACP, DOT Foods, and the City of Jacksonville gathered at Minnie Barr Park to re-dedicate the park after completion of a nearly 3-year long renovation project.
Organizers have raised more than $115,000 to install and restore playground equipment, provide an expanded basketball court, in addition to new landscaping, fencing, and security lighting.
Jacksonville Memorial Hospital President & CEO Dr. Scott Boston says it’s all a part of completing the hospital’s mission of a happy, healthy, and active community: “It’s really exciting to see all the fruits of the labors of everybody that’s been involved, particularly the people in the neighborhood and how involved they’ve been in making this particular project a success. This is a way for us to fulfill our mission to be a partner in helping people to improve lives and building stronger communities. This really lets us do both of those things. It’s a healthy activity to come out to the park and run around and play in the sunshine, but it’s also a part of the community and building a stronger neighborhood and really having a focus for the community come here and enjoy healthy, safe activities together.”
Jacksonville Park Director Adam Fletcher says he’s really proud the way the community came together to donate both money and time to cleaning up the park: “Overall, it’s a wonderful project because our goal is to make the parks in the city better than what they were. This park gets a whole lot of use for not much attention that had been given to it. For us to be able to give this park attention and show the community the use that this park can get when it’s in good shape and when it’s a presentable park is just amazing. The public really stepped up and did a good job getting this project together and going. To come to fruition like this is awesome because it shows that the community can join together, and whether it’s a park that does or doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, we need to have our parks looking good and it needs to have different options for our youth to come and partake of the activities that the park can provide. If we can do that by just making a park a little better, I’m all for it.”
Director of Community Health for Jacksonville Memorial Hospital and one of the chief organizers of the rehab project, Lori Hartz, says she’s thankful that DOT Foods stepped in near the end of the project to donate to the rehab of the basketball court, which is the most used piece in the park by the neighborhood: “It was huge. You can imagine working on this for a couple of years, and we were kind of wondering if we were going to be able to finish this. Knowing that this was so important to the children, it was really important for us to renovate the basketball court. I had started to research other funding sources. DOT Foods did not forget about us. They were just involved with Covid-19 response and having to provide food relief. Their focus had to be there at that time. When that focus shifted a little bit, they kept this project in mind. In fact, they contacted me and said ‘We’re ready to get back in the conversation about that project in Jacksonville.’ They’ve just been a super partner, not just in this park. I think people will notice around town that they are involved in lots of things with a focus on children, mentoring, and healthy activities for kids. We are really pleased that they stepped up for this project, and are very grateful that we were able to finish it.”
Hartz and Fletcher both say that new additions to the park may come in the future.
Fletcher specifically says that more trees and shade may be planted in the not-too-distant future.
Hartz says if a new need by the community comes forward, the hospital and the Jacksonville community will step forward to help fulfill that request, whatever it may be.