Together we CAN make a difference!
“I have been invested in this park for a long time and have worked to make improvements.
This playground is more and better than I could have ever imagined.”
Tony Martin, Eastown Resident
Tony, a former Eastown Community Association board member, and long-time resident was just one of many volunteers who came out to build the new Sigsbee playground. I share his words because they are so true. This build has been about more than slides and swing-sets, it has been about community. It has been about old allies coming together and new friends meeting for the first time to do something bigger than all of us on our own.
Our story started nine months ago with a conversation with our friend and partner Lake Michigan Credit Union.
LMCU has supported three other playground builds on the West Michigan lake shore and were very interested in doing something in their hometown- Grand Rapids. About the same time, the State of Michigan informed GRPS that the old playground at Sigsbee was so old and dilapidated, it was no longer deemed safe and would have to be removed or the park would be closed.
Closing Sigsbee was neither the smart thing to do nor the right thing to do. We knew that we had to act. LMCU brought in their partner Carter’s Kids and master playground builders Sinclair Recreation. And we started to build a team, including the Grand Rapids Parks Department, ELNC and the Eastown Community Association, and we asked the neighbors and residents for their thoughts and ideas.
Thanks to a lead gift from LMCU, we had half of the money needed for this project. And applying to the MEDC, we were thrilled to receive a matching grant from the State of Michigan to raise the remaining funds.
We quickly expanded our circle of friends and everyone came through! Through community fundraising, including fundraisers by That Early Bird and Harmony Hall and calls to action through the crowdfunding website Patronicity, we started got to work. In the end, over 150 individuals, businesses and community groups made financial gifts to this project and raised more than $120,000!
However, our work didn’t end there. We again sent out a call for help. And on September 11 and 12, 2017, over 50 volunteers, under the expert direction of Sinclair Recreation, built this playground (and spread a LOT of mulch)! Volunteers came from everyone- from LMCU to the Eastown neighborhood, from GRPS employees to Grand Rapids Fire Department Local 366. It was a full-out community effort. Families stopped by to watch the progress and shared their stories of growing up with this playground and park.
And on September 13, all of the hard work came together. At 10:00 am, the playground opened to applause and the squeals of children as they climbed on the new equipment. They laughed and played and brought the old playground back to life again. This journey has been a journey of community and what we can do, when we work together. The Sigsbee playground is truly more than anyone could have imagined.