Rotary Clubs, community partner to make children healthy

Rotary Clubs, community partner to make children healthy

Long neglected park and track to get makeover

You’ve often heard the old adage ‘Tis better to give than to receive’ but it’s so much easier to open the wallet when it’s a win-win

The students who attend John Stockton Elementary School in Ortega Forest and families in the surrounding neighborhood will win big if the Rotarians have anything to say about it.
Two Rotary Clubs have joined forces to spearhead a large improvement and remediation project for the public park that sits adjacent to the school.
It’s an idea that has been around since 2000 when the Friends of Stockton created a plan that included a new building, a media center, a courtyard and a track. The media center and the courtyard were completed, but the park and track have been languishing for attention.

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“I remember playing soccer on this field at Stockton before there was Westside soccer,” said Chris Croft, current president of the Rotary Club of Riverside. “Back then the field was in bad shape and now it’s in even worse shape. The school doesn’t have the money; the county doesn’t have the money.”

According to John McCorvey, immediate past president of the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville, “It’s a great improvement for the school and the community. It’s a public park, a community resource. It just happens to be next to an elementary school and the only park in Ortega Forest.”

McCorvey said that he and past president Marshall Butler worked with Croft and Ryan Jones, immediate past president of the Riverside Rotary, to join the efforts of the clubs, and apply for a Rotary district grant of $5,000.

But it’s not just West Jacksonville Rotary and Riverside Rotary that have skin in the game. The Rotarians have also succeeded in creating a public-private partnership with the City of Jacksonville, and are working closely with the Friends of Stockton and the Stockton PTA.

McCorvey approached District 14 Councilman Jim Love. “He liked the project and spoke at both clubs,” said McCorvey. “The City passed an ordinance to grant $88,343 in funds toward the project, but it does have time constraints.”

The City funds, together with seed money from each club and the district grant, represent about 25 percent of what’s needed for the

“It’s a $350,000 to $400,000 project,” McCorvey noted. “We need to raise roughly $250,000 by no later than next March to be in the ground as soon as possible thereafter to comply with the conditions of the ordinance.”

Croft said that a third of the cost will be moving three portable classrooms back to where they were originally intended to be placed and filling in an unnecessary retention pond.
“We’re blessed with a lot of talent in both Rotary Clubs, in planning, designing and construction, and we got those people together with a joint committee, and decided to do something that makes sense long term, and that involved some tough things like moving those portables and filling in the pond,” explained McCorvey.

Next phase: fundraising
According to McCorvey, the project is past the concept stage and engineering plans are finalized. It’s time now, he said, to let the community know how they can participate.
“One of our approaches to this project is a focus on anti-childhood obesity. We think this will be good to combat that, to encourage kids to get active,” McCorvey said. “We want this new generation of electronic kids off the sofa and back on the field.”

Dr. Greg Frazier, president of The Frazier Group, the nonprofit development company working with the Rotarians to raise funds, noted that the Center for Disease Control Stats indicated that more than one third of American children or adolescents are overweight or obese. “Schools play a critical role in the prevention aspect,” he said.

Croft related that Shannon Miller started her running project at Stockton. “It’s a huge success and has moved on to other schools in the City. Having a track that Stockton students can run on would make it nicer. There are not many sidewalks in Ortega Forest.”

To raise the needed funds, Frazier said “In a capital campaign, we have a ‘near silent’ phase where we approach people who can give major gifts first. That becomes the money to give leverage to other donors. We’re getting close to starting that phase before the end of the year.”

The Riverside Rotary Club has a foundation for tax-deductible gifts to fund this project. That club is also planning a public “day in the park” fundraising event in February, partnering with new Rotarian Ben Davis of Intuition Aleworks to have a beer festival.

It’s a good project from a lot of perspectives, stated McCorvey. “It does good for the community, it addresses a large social need fighting childhood obesity, it involves a public-private partnership and cooperation between two Rotary Clubs, who have members who live in that community. It’s a nice collaborative effort all around,” he said.
Tax deductible donations may be made payable to The Riverside Rotary Club Foundation, with the notation Stockton Track on the Memo Line. Mail checks to Rotary Club of Riverside, PMB 330, 4495 Roosevelt Blvd., Ste. 304, Jacksonville, FL 32210.
By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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