News

Organization plans playground project to "make a difference"

Written by John Latimer/Lebanon Daily News | Jan 13, 2016 9:10 AM
Lebanon_playground.jpg

Jose Kuilan, councilman Cornell Wilson, and Russell Simpson, holding his step-children Lanni, 3, and Marcus Robinson, 4, stand outside an aging playground at Optimist Park. Making a Difference ofLebanon, PA., is launching a fundraising effort to make improvements to Beautex Playground at N. 13th and Buttonwood streets, and Louser Memorial Park Southwest located at S. 13th and Washington streets. (Photo: Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily)

(Lebanon) -- Lebanon's newest City Council member is spearheading a playground revitalization project with a community-service organization he helped establish several years ago.

Cornell Wilson, who was elected to City Council in November, is the president of Making a Difference Lebanon, PA.

The group is launching a fundraising effort to raise $25,000 by June for improvements to Beautex Playground at N. 13th and Buttonwood streets, and Louser Memorial Park Southwest, located at S. 13th and Washington streets.

Make a Difference Lebanon, PA was started by Wilson several years ago as a community service organization that sponsored several projects, including holding events for children, adopting a family for Christmas and conducting monthly neighborhood clean-ups.

After a year's hiatus, the group recently reformed with a new nine-member board and a renewed purpose, said Wilson who serves as its president.

"We focus on three areas," he said. "Activities and events, education and community service."

Renovating the playgrounds is by far the group's biggest project, because both playgrounds have seen better days.

Louser Memorial Park Southwest (more commonly known as Optimist park because of the civic organization's building located there) was the site of a similar community effort two decades ago when a wooden playground was built. That playground is still open but has long outlived its usefulness and must be replaced.

Beautex is in general disrepair and also could use some attention, said Wilson, who envisions holding a community day in which volunteers help to do the work.

"At Beautex, we are basically going to do renovating and cleaning up and fixing up, painting and things like that for the existing park. And maybe, possibly buying one or two pieces of playground equipment," he said.

Wilson has cleared the project with Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello, who said the city is in the process of securing funding for a $20,000 Master Site Plan to develop recommended improvements at the Optimist playground and its surrounding athletic facilities. A site plan is a necessary step if the city hopes to get a state grant that would pay a significant amount of the cost for a new playground with plastic equipment, she said.

The mayor said she is grateful to have the organization's assistance and likened Wilson's effort to Councilman Tony Matula's fundraising for a police K-9 dog two years ago.

"We are very pleased this effort by Making a Difference is underway, and we are supportive of it," Capello said. "It will be separate from the city's efforts, just like Councilman Matula's K-9 fundraising, but any type of help is always appreciated."

The $25,000 fundraising effort is just launching and flyers will be sent out next week to local businesses and prominent community members in the hopes of getting their support, Wilson said.

To entice local businesses to make a contribution, Make a Difference board member Jason Bishop, a financial consultant for UFinancial Group, is offering services to those businesses and their employees, Wilson said. The financial services being offered include developing employee financial profiles, creating comprehensive retirement plans and conducting "lunch and learn" seminars.

"We are thinking that businesses have a lot of employees who have kids, and their kids probably play at those parks," he said. "So it's really giving back to their employees by helping to fix up these parks. And it also helps build a better community."

Wilson has plenty of support in the effort from the organization's nine-member board of directors, which includes vice-president Jose Kuilan.

As a boy, Kuilan said he played baseball for the Lebanon Catholic High School team at Optimist playground and spent many happy days at Beautex, near where he grew up.

"I remember at Beautex Playground when they use to have the Spanish dances and the regular dances, and the community would come together," Kuilan said. "I can remember my uncles playing softball at the Beautex and the families would come out and cook. It was just a wonderful time.

"And the wonderful thing about it is it was a mix of everybody. It was everybody throughout Lebanon County. It wasn't just one section of town, it was everybody. And I think Lebanon has lost that."

Kuilan and Wilson both hope the playground project reestablishes community ties and reinvigorates programs at the playgrounds, similar to the way neighborhood associations revitalized the Hilltop and South Sixth Street playgrounds.

"There are some people who are coming to us who might donate, but they want to know what is going to happen after this project," Wilson said. "Most people I talk to my age or beyond, they played at one of these playgrounds or now they take their kids to them. We just want to provide a great environment for the youth and get them out of the house and get them back to the playgrounds."

For more information about Make A Difference Lebanon PA visit its Facebook page.


This article comes to us through a partnership between WITF and Lebanon Daily News.

Published in Lebanon, News

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