Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Leavitt is Fighting for our Kids

In 1980, my family moved to Vancouver into an apartment complex in the Minnehaha neighborhood.

The first two summers we lived here, my younger brother Todd and I were enrolled in the Vancouver-Clark Parks & Recreation Summer Camp program. Nearly every day, we would either catch the CTRAN bus or ride our bicycles to Leverich Park to participate in a full day of fun and education with some 50-75 other children. I have very fond memories of those times, and to this day, still keep in touch with others who were in that program with us.

Under the current Mayor, Parks & Recreation programs have been whittled away since 2001. And there has been no concerted effort to find a solution to funding these valuable programs. It became apparent that someone needed to step forward and start thinking about the future of these programs and the potential impacts on our community's families and children if they were to go away entirely.

My frustration with continual cuts to teen and after school programs boiled over last year. Taking personal action, I contacted our state legislators to rally support for summer camp programs at Evergreen Park and Waterworks Park. These two parks are located on the Fourth Plain corridor -- an area with the highest crime rate, the lowest home ownership rate and the highest unemployment rate in the city. Gangs and illegal activity had infiltrated both parks. Not a safe or fun place for families and children.

Fortunately, Representative Bill Fromhold responded and obtained $25,000 from the State Community Trade and Economic Development program to support summer camp programs at both parks. We all owe Bill a debt of gratitude for his efforts, and local neighbors expressed as much. I visited the program at Evergreen Park last summer, and was elated with the feedback from staff and families. They spoke of the fun their children were having; their comfort with their children's safety; the productive time their children were spending in educational activities; and the disappearance of the gang members and crime activity. Their park had been returned to the neighborhood! By all accounts, the summer camp program was a huge success, with City Council receiving written letters from thankful neighbors.

With the programs in jeopardy yet again this year, the Parks Foundation and City Parks staffs worked diligently to scratch up some money. The Community Foundation of SW Washington graciously stepped forward and granted monies to both organizations to allow for kids/teen programs to continue this year. We are thrilled and relieved to see these programs continue. Thank you to the Community Foundation!

Realizing that there is such tremendous need for the public to support opportunities for our disadvantaged youth, I also decided to commit to an ongoing (monthly) personal contribution to the Parks Foundation's 'Everybody Plays' recreation scholarship program. This program provides access to recreational opportunities for Clark County's low income families, seniors and citizens with disabilities.

After-school and summer camp programs have special meaning for me. There are many in our community who feel the same way and contribute money and effort to better the opportunities for those less fortunate. I am pleased to be a true supporter of Parks and Recreation programs, and I strongly encourage you to join me. Please visit the Parks Foundation website at www.parksfoundation.us and make a contribution of your own!

Saving these programs for the health of our children and our community is of vital importance. Only through real action and effort are we going to maintain these quality-of-life programs that make Vancouver a great place to live, work and recreate.

Let's 'walk-the-talk' together.


roruda said...

It is a long proven fact that after school activities for children and teens deter crime especially gang activity. Parks and Rec programs are a vital resource, especially in these neighborhoods that are heavily infiltrated by low income issues such as gang activity and neglect. Thank you for spreading awareness of how we can help and for lending your own support and efforts to these programs!

Dotty said...

Great points Tim. I have had my daughter enrolled in Summer Camps in the past. Not only did it provide a great learning and social environment for her but it allowed me to work my job without also paying for daycare - at the time if I had to come up with the money for daycare I might as well quit my job. Summer Camps benefit the entire community and are worthy of saving!