Nonprofit organization beautifies Fairington Park

For 15 years, Fairington Park was a dead, neglected park with no playground or any activities for children, according to residents in the area.

The large grassy area was littered with trash and was a place of crime. Bonita Lacy, executive director of Healing Hearts of Families USA Ministries in Decatur, wanted to change that. For the past year, Lacy and her organization, Healing Hearts of Families USA Ministries, have cleaned up the abandoned area to turn it into a real park for children and families.

On Dec. 6, Healing Hearts of Families USA Ministries along with Home Depot at Wesley Chapel, the Fairington Community Association, Friends of the Park, DeKalb County Parks and Recreation, and Park Pride participated in the Fairington Park “Raise the Park” community initiative where they planted, weeded and beautified the entrance to Fairington Park. The ultimate goal is to have a playground installed on the lower level.

The group was able to get the supplies for the project from the Home Depot Foundation, which donated a $1,500 grant for this phase of the project. The grant money was also used to buy plants, mulch and other supplies.

Shameka Fluellen from Home Depot at Wesley Chapel said the store got involved with the project because it’s about people helping people.

“We just want to help those who are helping the less fortunate,” she said.

Lacy said the mission to change the park began in 2008 when she was working with President Barack Obama’s campaign.

“He told us to go back into the community and find a worthy cause,” she said. “And this park has been neglected for 15 years. Most people in the neighborhood didn’t know it was a park.”

Lavonia Hill, who lives nearby in the Fairington Village apartment complex, said the park was “plain” and there was nothing for her four children and other neighborhood children.

“My kids can’t even come out here and play,” she said. “It’s shootings and everything is back here for them to see.”

Lacy said she decided to take on the mission of revitalizing the park and the community. Healing Hearts of Families began working with the county to try to get county officials to invest in the park, but was unsuccessful.

“This park was here before they built Browns Mill [park],” she said. “And we asked when they built Browns Mill, what about [Fairington] park? And they ignored it. So, we decided to take it upon ourselves to raise funds and start fixing it up ourselves.”

Since then, Lacy said they have been getting input and help from DeKalb County Parks and Recreation department.

“We’ve just been doing project by project; bringing it up little by little,” she said.

Revonda Moody, project manager with DeKalb County Natural Resources department, said the county started a relationship with Park Pride two years ago and entered into a contract that brought the county more capacity and ability to help neighborhoods. Park Pride is a nonprofit organization that works with communities in Atlanta to improve parks.

“We have a Friends of the Park program and this is a group that started last year and has done some amazing things,” Moody said. “And through them and Park Pride they used their 501c status to reach out to corporations like Home Depot.”

The group has raised more than $10,000 for the revitalization projects and has had 200-plus volunteers work with it. Members have put up a park sign, built a walking trail and held youth summer readings at the park.

They also plan to build a playground in the future with help from KaBOOM!, a national non profit dedicated to building play for America’s children. Lacy said they need to raise $100,000 to build the playground.

“But we’re hoping that KaBOOM! matches that grant,” she said. “So, we have to get like $50,000.”

Hill said she began working with Lacy to help get the playground in the park so her children can have somewhere to play.

“This is something I want for my children,” she said.

Hill added that the community has also done its part to clean up the park.

“The community comes out to pick up trash, especially in the neighborhood, and they try to make a difference,” she said.

Moody said it is important to keep neighborhood parks up and running because revitalization makes purks more visible and inviting to people.

“When people see that they are less likely to vandalize, litter or take what’s not theirs,” she said. “We’re excited and this Friends group has really stepped up.”


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