El Dorado Park neighborhood celebrates playground opening

Volunteers from Fresno State, El Dorado Park Community Development Corp., Wesley United Methodist Church who helped build it will celebrate the grand opening of a KaBOOM! playground in El Dorado Park with a Community Fair 1-4 p.m. Saturday, April 14.

The opening event and ribbon-cutting will be at 1343 E. Barstow Ave. at the El Dorado Park Boys and Girls Club and Wesley United Methodist Church, in a neighborhood west of the Fresno State campus. The playground was installed Dec. 17 by more than 200 volunteers, joined by Fresno State President John D. Welty and Fresno City Councilmember Larry Westerlund.

Speakers will include Dr. Henry Delcore, El Dorado Park Community Development Corp. and an associate professor of anthropology at Fresno State, the Rev. Vickie Healy of Wesley United Methodist Church, part of the neighborhood, and University Police Chief David Huerta.

During the Community Fair, volunteers will provide activities for children along with a bounce house and food and drinks. Representatives from more than 15 other community organizations will also be present.

El Dorado Park has been the target of an active revitalization effort for the past five years. In August, Fresno State students – concerned about crime and personal safety – became involved.

“The revitalization efforts have brought together a diverse population, which has opened the doors to just how many families, residents and students the university benefits,” said Lauren Smoot, the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) community affairs coordinator on campus. “It has been more than just giving back; it has opened our eyes to just how much we can make a difference.”

Forming a Neighborhood Watch group brought students together to discuss ways to promote safety in the area. The group meets monthly, rotating between student and community meetings so all residents have their concerns addressed.

In August, ASI sponsored National Night Out at the church to strengthen neighborhood bonds and generate support for crime prevention. Smoot said the event “set the tone for the revitalization effort by reaching out to the community and promoting safety.”

Students have also organized community clean-ups, carting off abandoned furniture, picking up trash and removing graffiti.

At the start of the spring semester, Fresno State sorority and fraternity members began to volunteer at Wesley at Base Camp, the weekly community dinner. Every Thursday, six members of a fraternity and sorority volunteer to set up for the dinner and serve the guests and meet with the children to serve as positive role models.

Through these efforts, students have established working relationships with Westerlund, the city of Fresno and the Fresno Police and University Police departments.

KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds in poor neighborhoods, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (NYSE: PGE), Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County and Wesley United Methodist Church, and the El Dorado Park Community Development Corp. supported the one-day playground installation.

The playground grand opening is sponsored by El Dorado Park Community Development Corporation. For more information, contact Wesley United Methodist Church at 559.224.1947.

(Copy by University Communications student news assistant Nicole Maul.)

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