In the ‘90s, Charlotte, N.C., struggled with high crime rates and a lack of financial resources to maintain its city-owned parks. As a result, the Reid Park Community Playground fell into disarray, no longer providing a play area or access to green spaces for the more than 1,000 residents in the area.

Project EverGreen, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating a greener, healthier, cooler Earth by making a difference in yards, parks and communities, and Habitat for Humanity Charlotte, a nonprofit focused on providing Americans with affordable housing, were determined to help the neighborhood of Charlotte rise from the ashes by providing a landscaping facelift to the Reid Park Community Playground.

Although renovating a playground and surrounding park might seem like a small thing in the big scheme of things, in reality, one small green space in a community can have an everlasting, positive impact, and that is exactly what has happened in Charlotte.

The refreshed playground is not just a place for the kids of the neighborhood; it’s a green space for the entire community.

“The families of the Reid Park neighborhood care about their community and want what is best for everyone involved,” says Sherika Eskridge, Habitat Charlotte’s neighborhood revitalization coordinator. “The park adds a sense of pride to those who live there, fosters a sense of community, and makes people more committed than ever before to stay close to others and keep their neighborhood clean and safe.”

Eskridge notes that some of the benefits of revitalizing this area include creating a place for adults to connect, establishing a space for relaxation, encouraging people to get out of their homes, and promoting a healthy lifestyle with a place for people to be more active through exercise.

The refurbished green space has been a springboard of optimism for the community as future plans call for further enhancing the playground and taking the neighborhood’s rebirth to the next level.

What do the residents have to say about the renovations? One resident says, “We come to the park just about every day.” Another adds “We like that it is safe, and enjoy seeing the children play together.”

The neighborhood kids appreciate the simpler side of it all, saying, “The slide is my favorite thing to do.”

No matter if you see the power of a community coming together or merely enjoy a fun ride down the slide, the impact is the same: Charlotte is a better place because of their Reid Park Community Playground.

Phil Prince, director of marketing for Habitat for Humanity Charlotte, says Habitat has been dedicated to the Reid Park community for years. Almost one-third of the houses in the Reid Park area were built and repaired by Habitat for Humanity Charlotte, creating a diverse community and providing a welcoming home for families in need.

However, Habitat for Humanity did not stop there. Habitat not only wants to provide houses for families in the neighborhood, they also want to help grow the community. Prince explains that without an outdoor space to spend time, residents could no longer connect and children were forced to play in the heavily traveled Amy James Avenue. Habitat and Project EverGreen were determined to change that.

That’s why in December 2016, Project EverGreen and Habitat for Humanity Charlotte joined forces with volunteers from Ruppert Landscape to renovate the Reid Park Community Playground by planting ornamental shrubs, weeding, installing walkway edging and adding kid-safe rubber playground mulch.

Playground equipment manufacturer KaBOOM helped with the initiative by providing new playground equipment for the children to play on so they no longer needed to use the street as an area to play.

“Well-maintained parks are transformational for families and the areas they live in,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “They serve as community hubs, creating positive neighborhood relationships and safe playing surfaces for kids to play. Project EverGreen, working together with Habitat for Humanity and Ruppert Landscape, made the difference for this park and nearby residents.”

Interested in starting a community renovation project in your community? Contact Project EverGreen’s Cindy Code at cindycode@projectevergreen.org for more information.