Actions speak louder than words – public programs provided by parks and recreation services – Editorial

Richard Johns

Actions speak louder than words. A simple philosophy, but with all the talk about social issues what is our profession doing to help?

According to the recent BENEFITS STUDY (Godbey, et. al), more than 192 million people from all walks of life utilized park and recreation services last year. How many other institutions, public or private, have the capacity to reach 192 million people?

We can be agents of change and many of us are.

Anaheim’s (CA) Project S.A.Y. (Save A Youth) now in its seventh year, was designed for gang/drug prevention and intervention. Managed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, the program sends outreach workers into gang areas to conduct home visits, mediate conflicts and encourage gang members to take part in training, sports and educational activities.

In Toronto, the Parks and Recreation Department has formed a softball league for the homeless. Now the same sense of vitality, energy and respect can be enjoyed by persons who are traditionally shunned by most communities.

The Minneapolis (MN) Parks and Recreation Department works with a number of agencies through its “Hub and Spoke” program. The program focuses on middle school kids who have been getting into trouble after school. The solution? Youths are bused directly from school to neighborhood centers, libraries and church sites to take part in recreation programs.

The Houston (TX) Parks and Recreation Department has incorporated a Summer Fun Quest element into its existing Free Lunch program. Here youngsters have their nutritional needs met and enjoy well structured, meaningful recreation experiences.

My own department in Santa Barbara (CA), through Adaptive Recreation Programs provides a broad range of competitive activities to people with disabilities. One highlight is the “Blister Bowl” Wheelchair Football Tournament, which began in 1980, an event enjoyed by both participants and the community.

These are only a few examples of park and recreation programs addressing social needs. Are you active in this area? Is there more you can do? Look closely at the social needs of your community and with the resources available to you, determine how your agency can become more involved.

Let’s make our profession the agent of change that it can be. Let’s not only speak up, but take action as well.

COPYRIGHT 1993 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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