Learning is the First Step for Caring
By Tina Arnold, Park Pride’s Director of Community Building
I hadn’t lived in the Lakewood Heights community in South Atlanta for long before I got involved in my first community clean-up day. It was during this volunteer project—clearing tires out of South Bend Park—that I first noticed the burnt-out building. I learned that this was an old community building where families and groups could gather for activities. It was hauntingly beautiful, and I felt a strong sense of nostalgia.
A full year later, during another tire clean-up project within the same park, I noticed that not only had nothing been done about the burnt-out building, but that it had suffered even more fire damage in the intervening year. But what could I do about it? I thought. Who was I to say something? Who could I even call? I was at a loss and felt powerless to make a change.
That Spring, however, City of Atlanta Councilmember Carla Smith sponsored my ticket to Park Pride’s annual Parks and Greenspace Conference. It was there that I met the then Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Dianne Harnell Cohen and Deputy Commissioner, Ken Gillette. I asked them directly about the building and why it had not been rebuilt. The impact of having access to these individuals was immediate and profound. Almost like magic, the community building in South Bend Park was restored.
If raising my voice and asking a single question could have such a positive outcome, what else was possible?
Through this experience, I learned not just about the power of my own voice as well as that of the community, but that Park Pride’s role is to help my community organize around our park and connect us to the people and resources needed to make the difference.
During a recent conversation with Kalya Altland, Park Pride’s Friends of the Park Associate, she said “Learning is the first step for caring in our communities. It inspires action and encourages others to join with you to build a welcoming and vibrant community.” I couldn’t agree with her more. Learning how to use my voice to the benefit of my park and community was, indeed, my first step to caring and making an impact.
Now, as Park Pride’s Director of Community Building, I look forward to helping other communities find their voices through the Friends of the Park Program. Friends groups empower individuals and unite communities around shared visions for their parks where people of all generations can learn about and participate in their community, build relationships among their neighbors, and, of course, enjoy the benefits of a clean and relaxing greenspace.
If you’re interested in taking the first step to making a difference in your community through your neighborhood park, I encourage you to reach out to Kayla and me to learn more about the resources available to make your voice heard!
- To learn more about Atlanta Friends of the Park groups or to attend an Atlanta Park Meeting, please contact Tina Arnold: [email protected] or 404-723-3116.
- To learn more about Friends of the Park groups in DeKalb, Tucker, or Brookhaven, please contact Kayla Altland: [email protected] or 470-371-7330.
- Meet us at the next Parks Meeting, hosted at Mattie Freeland Community House on Thursday December 13 at 7:30 a.m. (healthy breakfast and coffee provided!)
Tina Arnold (left) and Kayla Altland (right) are Park Pride’s two newest team members. One month ago, Tina Arnold took on the role of Director of Community Building and coordinates the Friends of the Park groups in Atlanta. Kayla Altland began working with Friends of the Parks groups in Dekalb, Brookhaven, and Tucker six months ago. Together, they make up Park Pride’s Community Building team, working to help connect and coordinate Friends of the Park groups in the metro Atlanta area.