September 6, 2013

A diamond in the rough

Located on Saginaw’s east side is a sports and fitness park that is a true “gem.” Established by New Life Ministries outreach program Mission in the City in 2011, the park, filling a city block at N. 6th and N. 7th Streets and Federal and Janes Avenues, serves as a hub for residents in the area.

“In 1999, we conducted a survey to find out the needs of the community and how we, as a church, could fulfill those needs,” said Rev. Rufus Bradley, Sr., pastor of New Life Ministries. “Near the top of the list was recreation.”

Bradley says the church began acquiring property in a block-long area directly across from the church and constructed the Mission in the City Sports and Fitness Park. The park features two full-sized basketball courts with bleachers to seat approximately 70 people, a picnic pavilion and a quarter-mile paved walking track.

“Our park, staffed by volunteers and open to the public daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., provides a clean, safe, family-friendly environment, “said Bradley. “It is never open without supervision, and in the two years the park has been open, there have been zero discipline or vandalism incidents.”

Since 2011, the park has been filling a need for recreation opportunities for residents of the neighborhood. Bradley admits, though, that one thing was missing.

“There wasn’t anything for the young children to do – those between ages 2 and 5.”


Sports and Fitness Park aerial view











Helping Improve the Community

Last year, Saginaw Community Foundation introduced a new community improvement initiative which will grant $25,000 to a selected project in the community each year. An additional $5,000 can be added to the grant total if the initial grant is matched.

“We defined a community improvement initiative as a project that will create indelible, measurable impacts in the immediate and broader community,” said Foundation president and CEO Reneé Johnston. “These projects need to be supported and planned by a broad range of community members ranging from businesses to governmental entities to neighborhoods and individuals.”

The initiative extends beyond existing charitable organizations, churches, schools and county/city officials. Individuals, community groups, neighborhoods, businesses and youth groups can apply if they utilize the Foundation as a fiscal agent. New and existing community projects are eligible.



A safe place to play

After careful consideration of all grant applicants, the SCF board of directors shared Bradley’s vision of a safe place to play within the Sports and Fitness Park and awarded the 2013 Community Improvement Initiative Grant to Mission in the City. The grant will be used to construct a curriculum-driven playground geared for children ages 2-5.

“A curriculum-driven playground will provide the children an opportunity for brain stimulus,” said Bradley. “They will be able to explore music and play counting games while exercising. The beauty of the playground design is that the children won’t realize that they are learning while playing.”

Bradley said the church is working on finalizing the plans for the playground and hopes to break ground at the end of September or sometime in October. Installation should take 30-45 days.

“This park is a source of pride for the neighborhood. It’s a hub for social gatherings,” Bradley said. “The community has embraced this park and taken ownership of it. With the grant award, we are excited to be able to add a playground and provide a safe, supervised place for young children to play.”