Building Community...and a Park!
One goal of the Eli’s Park Project is to build a park that is accessible and welcoming to people of all ages, abilities and identities. Our other, equally important, goal is to build the loving community who will gather there. We know relationships are more powerful than stereotypes and believe that if we all work together, we can create a more inclusive world.
As the COVID pandemic and racism endemic have highlighted the pre-existing equity gaps in our community, they’ve also provided some tangible examples of how the Eli’s Park Project is already making a difference in our community.
In March of 2020, schools scrambled to ensure their most vulnerable students had access to food. Many school sites began offering pick-up lunches and to-go snacks, but students living in the affordable and transitional housing near the park were not accessing this essential service. The principal at the nearby middle school reached out to an Eli’s Park Project volunteer. She said, “We called on the Eli’s Park Project teen advisors and volunteers to assist with getting the food into the hands of our students. They were able to make immediate contact with students and families due to the deep community connections they have created and fostered over the years.” Trusting relationships and a strong community connection made it possible for hundreds of local students to receive meals.
Similarly, the roll-out of vaccines shone a light on the range of experiences and disparity of access to healthcare. Janelle Wagner, a local vaccination clinic manager, reached out to an Eli’s Park Project volunteer for assistance connecting with nearby community members. "Thanks to the Eli's Park Project, I got to know people in our community I would've never known. And once I got to know and care about the actual people who are excluded, I knew I had to do more. The Eli's Park Project community members helped our vaccination clinic partner with families of color and disabled community members so we could bring personalized vaccine clinics to them so people would feel safe, welcome and be able to access vaccines. Without them, we would've never known who was missing or how to reach them." Because of the bridges built between our previously segregated communities, over 400 vaccines were administered to community members furthest from health equity.
Building community, strengthening relationships and breaking down barriers is the heart of the Eli’s Park Project. Because we all benefit when we all belong.