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Jacksonville Park Renovation Plan Closing In On Fundraising Goal

Three-quarters of the $100,000 needed to add, repair and expand playground equipment at a public park in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Jacksonville has been raised.

And organizers said they are confident they can secure the rest of the funds by the time the scheduled improvements take place in April.

“This is a communitywide collaboration,” said Lori Hartz, director of community relations for Passavant Area Hospital in this Morgan County community of 18,800 people.

The planned improvements at Minnie Barr Park are important to promote health and improve the quality of life in northeastern Jacksonville, Hartz said, noting that parts of the neighborhood are more than a mile from the nearest public-school park.

 “There are not a lot of places for the children to play,” she said.

Passavant, a 131-bed not-for-profit hospital that is part of Springfield-based Memorial Health System, has spearheaded plans for the park as part of Healthy Jacksonville, a new Passavant initiative that connects clients to local social-service agencies.

The $100,000 fundraising campaign will pay for the addition of playground equipment specifically geared toward children 10 years and younger. The equipment will be installed by volunteers, Hartz said.

The existing basketball court will be resurfaced and doubled in size, and new baskets will be installed, she said.

In addition, existing playground equipment will be repaired and repainted, she said.

Neighborhood residents helped plan for the project, she added. The new equipment is being designed by Landscape Structures, a Minnesota-based company.

Jacksonville city government has pledged to contribute $25,000 from city coffers.

“We’re tickled to death to be a partner,” Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard said, adding that improvements at the city-owned park will benefit residents of all ages. “That park has historically been a good gathering spot,” he said.

Jacksonville police chief Adam Mefford said he took part in the planning process.

The renovations, he said, “will bring a much-needed improvement to the park. The improvements should bring enjoyment to children of all ages.”

In addition to the city’s contribution, amounts pledged for Minnie Barr Park improvements so far include: $10,000 from Passavant Area Hospital; $15,000 from KaBOOM; $8,000 from Jacksonville Children’s Foundation; $5,000 from Jacksonville Kiwanis Club; $8,000 from Jacksonville Rotary Club; $3,089 from the Passavant-Gatorade 5K and 10K races in 2019; a $5,000 goal from the Passavant-Gatorade 5K and 10K races scheduled for May 23, 2020; $200 from Amvets; and $100 from Aldi.

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