Volunteers make finishing touches renovating Benton Harbor park
BENTON HARBOR, Mi. -- Over one-hundred volunteers from the Whirlpool Corporation and the Benton Harbor community came out as part of Whirlpool's "Day of Impact," a program meant to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday-- and the end of slavery in the US-- through community service, to put the finishing touches on the newly revitalized Union Park-- from its playgrounds with new equipment to its renovated baseball fields and brand new basketball courts.
“It’s been a longtime coming in terms of what we’ve been doing to work with the city, to help make improvements to the park and the community, said Whirlpool VP of Communications Eleanor Reece.
This was all part of Whirlpool's Racial-Equality Pledge, to help build up Benton Harbor and its residents after a very large and peaceful racial justice protest with people from both sides of the river, after the death of George Floyd in 2020.
“Whirlpool wanted to lean in and step in to see how can we invest more in the city of Benton Harbor, not just in a commercial investment or a housing investment, but how can we invest in the neighborhood infrastructure," said Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad. "Union Park came to the top of the list.”
Whirlpool contributed $500,000 to the project as part of the city's master plan to update and upgrade its parks.
Jim Peters, Whirlpool CFO said “The fields have been improved dramatically. The fences now are up and you’ve got the tops on them. The basketball court has been resurfaced. The playground has been refurbished. Numerous improvements, its just hard to count.”
Volunteers of all ages came out, to sand down and paint new bleachers, weed and rake the park and test out some of the new equipment.
“I mean, it’s not really much, but we’re just out here restoring the park, and making it look good," said one volunteer, a ninth-grader from Benton Harbor Charter School Academy. "Everyone can come here and enjoy themselves, and you know, have fun.”
Officials believe these improvements are going to make a difference in the community.
“It’s excitement," Mayor Muhammad said, describing the mood of neighborhood residents. "People are happy to once again see Union Park become vibrant and alive again, where activities—most importantly for our young people—can take place this summer.”
Muhammad added that the improvements were finalized at the perfect time, as baseball season starts tomorrow.
“I’ll be throwing out the first pitch tomorrow, at five-thirty for our little league kickoff," he said. "This is so fitting, because what’s being done today will benefit the children tomorrow.”
This is not a one-time effort; Whirlpool confirmed it will keep contributing to Benton Harbor's plan to revitalize the rest of its public parks for the next fifteen to twenty years.