Clark Park Coalition
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Clark Park and the neighborhoods surrounding it in District 6.
How is your organization making a difference in Detroit today?
In 1991, due to the City’s ongoing financial problems, the park was slated to close. Residents formed a public-private partnership with the Detroit Recreation Department that’s kept the park open for all to enjoy. Today, Clark Park remains the community’s anchor, providing four seasons of programming for thousands of young people. Team sports include youth soccer, hockey (Clark Park has the only regulation-size outdoor hockey rink in southeast Michigan), baseball, tennis, lacrosse, and ice skating.
But Clark Park is more than sports. It’s used by to nearly 14,000 youths under 18. Overall, an estimated 100,000 individuals use the park every year. It hosts concerts, festivals, and special events. During the school year, it provides tutoring and computer classes for kids. During the summer, it provides free lunches daily to more than 100 youngsters and offers a gardening program, classes in theatre arts, arts and crafts, and nutrition. Through grants, the park offers part-time employment which teaches youth responsibility and how to conduct themselves at work, as well as offering them a sense of pride in earning their own money and helping neighbors.
What are some of your organization’s proudest accomplishments?
Saving Clark Park from closure. Creating athletic programs (hockey, soccer, baseball, tennis, etc.) that engage over 500 youth annually. Providing employment opportunities for neighborhood youth. And providing a safe, positive space to engage youth outside of school. There are any number of “alumni” who have gone onto college and employment and who credit Clark Park as THE difference-maker that changed their trajectory from ending up a statistic to having a productive life that they love and are proud of.
What have been your top lessons learned through your work in your community?
We have learned that it is important to engage youth wherever they are at. Many of our participants end up at the park or in programs because there are few other alternatives. They may not have come to the park for mentoring or to hear about the importance of education, nutrition, exercise, and being a kind person, but by including these important life lessons in the programming offered at the park we have tremendous success in reaching youth who may have few other positive role models or environments.
What words of wisdom or encouragement would you pass on to others doing work similar to your organization?
Persistence. And you can do it. Over 25 years, the Coalition has grown from parents volunteering to be on-site at the rec center a few days a week to a larger 501(c)(3) organization with full-time staff and a certified audited financial statements. It took years of dogged persistence, but this happened through community, through hard work, and through partnership.
How can others get involved/support your work?
We use dozens of volunteers as athletic coaches and we have regular cleanups and park maintenance days. More information is available by visiting our website, visiting the center or calling the center.
Contact the Clark Park Coalition