Toody Maher is a woman with a dream. An artist and entrepreneur from Richmond, California, she looked around her neighborhood four years ago and decided that things had to change. Specifically, she saw a neglected, graffiti-ridden park in her neighborhood, an area that had become a dumping ground for trash, and got mad.
Making A Difference
Maher determined that she would make a difference, not by organizing just one clean-up day, nor even to pretty up the park and add some new play structures. No, Maher decided that the whole neighborhood had to be refurbished. She hired local parents and teens and recruited hundreds of volunteers who researched, lobbied and held an amazing 163 community meetings to come up with the right approach. Eventually she convinced the city of Richmond to fix up the 20 foreclosed homes that were sitting empty around the park and design a plan for a playground model.
$2 Million Grant From The State Of California
Not only that, she was able to secure a $2 million grant from the state of California to finance her work.
Maher formed a nonprofit organization, Pogo Park, whose mission is to transform lives by transforming public spaces. At the same time, she is transforming children’s lives.
Pogo Park – Helping Children Reach Their Potential
Here’s how she describes her journey on her website, www.pogopark.org:
“Over the next few months, I did nothing else but eat, sleep, and research parks and playgrounds. What I discovered immediately was the growing body of research pointing to the critical and essential role of play in child development. Play is how children learn. Play is the “mother’s breast milk” of activities––the most potent way for children to develop the cognitive, linguistic, social, imaginative, and physical skills they must acquire to reach their potential”
Dreams Coming True This Fall
This fall, her dream will come true as the first project takes shape: recreating Elm Playlot, a small Richmond park described on the Pogo Park website as “a small, little-used, city park that lies in the middle of Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood – a once-proud, inner-city neighborhood that now suffers from deep poverty, violent crime, widespread blight, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness.”
Congratulations to Toody Maher!
You can watch a video about this project here:
Photo Credit: Listener42 via Creative Commons