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Inspiration for Humanity

IN THE April 21 ISSUE

FROM THE 2018 Articles,
andHelping Hands,
andTom Sims
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by Tom Sims

What happens when you cross a park built to welcome and inspire all with an organization and movement designed to empower people with home ownership? When you combine a place called Inspiration Park with a group called Habitat for Humanity, you come up with Inspiration for Humanity!

Habitat for Humanity grew out of a community called Koinonia Farms when its founder, Clarence Jordon, met an energetic businessman and attorney, Millard Fuller. Both men believed that human dignity and hope required that human beings be given a chance to improve their own lives and work collaboratively in community to that end. Habitat for Humanity, Fresno County continues that vision.

Habitat Fresno was founded thirty-three years ago by Jackie Holmes. She was succeeded by Tony Miranda. The current Executive Director is Matthew Grundy, and the Inspiration for Humanity event was created and spearheaded by Tina Searcy, Community Outreach Coordinator.

Tina Searcy and Matthew Grundy Habitat Fresno

Tina Searcy and Matthew Grundy

“For…years Habitat Fresno has radically changed lives. To date we have improved housing conditions for 400 families though the work of over 12,000 volunteers and have leveraged millions of dollars generated from over 7,000 donors for one purpose: to share the love of God by bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope.”

Inspiration Park breaths that same sort of rarified air. For the last two years, the park has hosted the event with Habitat. Tina Searcy believes it is a natural fit.

“I was challenged to come up with this event, and I had a relationship with Resources for Independence. At the time they were managing the park and suggested we take a look. I fell in LOVE! It is a universal accessible park, and we work with elderly/disabled through our critical repair program to install ramps and rails. It has such a great layout, and it’s in close proximity to where we are building on Polk and Gettysburg.” habitat for humanity truck

Professor, coach, and Special Olympics advocate, Jim Santos had a vision for a park with the right kind of equipment to make it attractive, accessible, challenging, and fun for people with disabilities as well as for people without noticeable disabilities. It started with a desire to provide for his own developmentally disabled adult son. Collaborations with the City of Fresno and Resources for Independence Central Valley, it happened and the park was dedicated in 2016. Fresno State Live Well Blog 10/21/2016 Jim Santos.

Inspiration Park is the first universally accessible park in the Central Valley, with a variety of innovative and creative features, for all to enjoy,” according to its Facebook page. inspiration park event

In 2017, The City of Fresno Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services (PARCS) Department was selected as a 2016 California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS) Award of Excellence recipient for Community Center/Mixed Use Class 2 in the Excellence in Facility Design Award. Mayor Lee Brand remarked, “It’s easy to see why Inspiration Park and the Donovan Center were chosen for this award. It’s a shining example of Fresno’s ability to work together to create something that meets the needs of every member of our community.”

The park includes the Donovon Community Center, which is named after Donovan Maldonado, a seven-year-old who died in 2012 after being hit by a drunk driver. It was created by the city of Fresno, Fresno County, Resources of Independent Living, and The Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County. The center houses several community programs including the Boys and Girls Club.Donovan Maldonado plaque

On Saturday, April 14, there was a celebration of inspiration! Tina Searcy said, “We wanted to create an event that would speak into our mission of ‘Putting God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope.’ So we created a space to interact with families where we are building and highlight our partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Families came to have fun for FREE and left with great resources in the community.”

Habitat sponsored the event, mostly from their own budget, along with a $1,000 sponsorship from Kaiser and seed money from Thrivent Financial. About 500 people showed up and were entertained with special guest appearances by FSU Time Out, We Got the Beat, McCoy Hip Hop, and Parker from the Fresno Grizzlies.

Inspiration for Humanity was built on relationships and nurtured relationships. For instance, it included:

• Thrivent Financial is a Christian wealth management company and a national partner of Habitat.
• Boys and Girls Club runs programs at Inspiration Park and volunteers with Habitat.
• Esmeralda Soria’s office, Fresno City Council District 1, continues to be a partner of Habitat which is building homes in her district.
• Fresno County Parks Department co-branded event with them. They manage Inspiration Park.
• Ronald McDonald House works with children and is a community partner.
• Central Valley Veterans and Habitat are affiliates and also collaborates with Home Depot. Both CVV and Home Depot were present with information. Home Depot brought fun kits for kid-friendly projects.
• American Red Cross was there and is a community partner of Habitat.
• Fresno Rescue Mission Disciples is a program that volunteers with Habitat three times a week and is a community partner of Habitat
• Fresno Chaffee Zoo came to bring great entertainment and educational displays for kids as well as some animals.
• Fresno County Mobile Science Unit, which is situated in Highway City, was present to educate children about science and to provide entertainment.
• Poverello House Food Truck/Food Giveaway provided lunch and bags of fresh food. Poverello is a strong partner of Habitat, and they team up on this event every year.
• The Habitat for Humanity Restore was onsite to display some of their merchandise for sale in two locations.
• WIC had a booth to educate families about nutrition.
• Reading and Beyond featured their Dental program. They have partnered with Habitat in different capacities over the years.
• West Care was present as a community partner.
• Build-a-Child, a program of 4141 Ministries, provided games and information as a child-focused community partner.
• Central Valley Children Services Network, a community partner, gave out vital information for families.
• Q97.1 brought music and broadcast from the event.
• Fresno Police Department was present for the second year.
• Fresno Fire Department came with its Fire Safety Trailer. It was their first year coming, and they provided fire safety information and entertainment.
• “We Got the Beat” provided entertainment. They are a children’s percussion band. Tina’s son has been playing with them for the last five years and serves as a teacher’s assistant.
• “McCoy Hip Hop” also provided entertainment. Tina’s daughter was in Hip Hop, and she saw them perform at the Fresno County Fair.

All of the groups are community partners of Habitat, and they work with children and families in some capacity.

Matthew Grundy, Habitat’s third Executive Director, was great hosting the children’s dance competition. I asked Tina, “Does he have a future in show business?”

“Haha! Yes! He used to volunteer as a DJ at his kid’s school, and he is very talented!”

I noticed the energy of people from the various groups networking. I asked Tina if it was a side benefit?

“I would say anytime new partnerships can be formed it’s a win!”

That is a big part of what Habitat does in cities and communities. It brings together diverse people and organizations around common goals. It inspires it, and it implements avenues for it to happen. In many ways, that is what Inspiration Park does every day. It creates a space where people can meet and grow and reach their own potential. There were other key events in the city on the same day, and yet, this one fared well in attendance. I asked Tina, “Did that have anything to do with it being a local park?”

McCoy Hip Hop

McCoy Hip Hop

“Word of mouth is key and blasting the event on Social Media. Our community partners were also sharing it on their social media channels, and it got great buzz on Q97.1. We also partnered with FSU interns and distributed flyers to over 400 homes in the neighborhoods near the park. We do have a project nearby. We were donated three lots by Central Community Church, and we will be breaking ground on three new homes in very close proximity to the park in the fall.”science mobile

Tina is moving to San Diego soon and will leave a big gap among the groups and people with whom she has worked here. I asked her one final question, “You have been a great asset to the community and now you are moving to San Diego. What will you miss most about Fresno?”

“I will miss EVERYTHING about Fresno, being involved in the Christian non-profit sector you form some great relationships and make friends along the way. I will miss seeing familiar faces in the community, leaving my parents, relatives, and my Habitat Family. Matthew Grundy is the best boss ever, and I feel blessed to have been adopted in the Habitat Family.”

There are some great photos of the event at Captured Design “Inspiration for Humanity 2018.”

For a photo tour of Inspiration Park, see “Fresno’s Newest Park Lives Up to Its Name: Check Out Inspiration Park,” February 22, 2017 by Natali Carrera.

Inspiration for Humanity!
Tina Searcy—Community Outreach Coordinator
Habitat for Humanity Fresno County
4991 East McKinley Avenue, Suite 123
Fresno, CA 93727
Phone: (559) 237-4102 X 112

#weloveFresno

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.

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