“What have I gotten myself into?!”
That was David’s first thought on the morning of his very first playground build in La Habra.
But now with an incredible five playground builds under his belt, David, Recreation Manager for the city of La Habra, can fondly reminisce about how important that first Corona Park playground build was and how it transformed his city’s business model.
“Corona Park was built on an old empty lot that had been vacant for about 80 years. Back then, the city’s primary industry was citrus farms, so the surrounding neighborhood was called ‘the camp’. This was where up to three generations of citrus farm pickers lived. For years, the community dreamed of having a playground in the lot, but the city couldn’t afford it, let alone see the vision.”
Despite the community’s deep desire for a play space to revitalize the area, the local government was generally apathetic when David first pitched a proposal.
“I was upset by this attitude! It lit a fire in me,” David exclaims. “I knew I had to get this playground built.”
When KaBOOM! awarded them the build, it was a hot potato they didn’t know how to handle. But as David and his team went through the process of working with KaBOOM! and ForestersTM, they quickly got their footing and recognized the value of aligning with a partner like Foresters to not only provide project funding, but also initiate the action.
“Everyone knows the city, but the differentiating factor is the relationship with the corporate partner; this makes people feel important,” David explains. “When Foresters helps to fund and build the playground and doesn’t ask the community for anything in return, you realize they genuinely care about you.”
Through David’s leadership, the city has successfully replicated this model for various community initiatives, including a new five year program called ‘Move More, Be Healthy’.
“We formed a committee made up of executives from various city hospitals and local health agencies, to figure out how to better serve the community’s health needs,” David tells me.
Based on this initiative, four health fairs have been developed and will take place throughout the year. Each fair focuses on a different community demographic, including children, seniors and families.
David and his team at the city have come a long way, but each time David goes by that first playground, he’s reminded of where it all began. The biggest problem at the old ‘camp’ these days isn’t vandalism or crime. It’s play equipment that’s warn-out from overuse.
But as David points out, “It’s a great problem to have.”