The grand opening of a park, converted from a former parking lot, at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center was celebrated on Wednesday, September 13.
The play area was made possible by an anonymous donor, according to Margaret Della, KHCC executive director.
The center, at 3101 Kingsbridge Terrace, developed a relationship with the donor, as well as the New York Restoration Project, which did prep work to improve the property’s slope.
The NYRP “trimmed some trees, put in railroad ties to help with the adjustment of the dirt and the leveling off,” Della said. That work took place over a couple of weeks.
Once the ground was leveled, the donor sent about 120 of its employees to build the park over a two-day period.
“They put down the gravel, mulch, shrubs, and planted tomatoes, corn, herbs, mint,” Della said.
KHCC took about six months gaining community and staff input, trying to create a space to provide for the privacy of children who are survivors of abuse, and those who have special needs, who participate in programs, according to Della. The ages of participants range from five to 20.
The center also wanted to accommodate mature adults, or those with disabilities, by providing raised beds filled with mulch for growing plants. They can reach over to access the beds.
The park actually opened at the end of June, welcoming members of the community and offering a Butterfly Café enterprise managed by local teenagers.
The center wanted to delay its grand opening until after school started and families returned from summer vacations.
The teens operating the Butterfly Café worked barbeque grills, cooking burgers, ribs, corn, and even prepped fruit salads, according to Della.
They operated the café on Mondays and Fridays, raising money for the center’s after-school program.
“They were dipping their toes into entrepreneurship, service and worked with us on those days throughout the summer,” Della said.
Some teens who worked the Butterfly Café were with the Summer Youth Employment Program, and others were group leaders with the summer camp that runs from after July 4 through mid-August.
The KHCC works to help families receive education, support, nutrition, and therapy. When cases involving domestic violence and abuse arise, the center provides resources to survivors, according to Della.
“We always take steps to make sure that family members are safe, children are safe and being taken care of,” Della said in an interview with development intern Katharine Krchnavy posted on the KHCC website, www.khcc-
“If there is a situation where a family is in a shelter or becomes homeless, we want to continue to provide services to ensure that children and families aren’t lost,” Della stated. We want to mitigate the negatives for these families as much as possible.”
Della also noted that KHCC is there for people when ‘life happens.’
“People lose their jobs. Abuse happens. KHCC is a resource that provides intervention so these types of traumatic situations don’t derail people indefinitely. We make sure that they can receive whatever they need to get back on track so they can focus on the next step.”