Within the one square mile that is Meadows Place, it’s a tight-knit family affair.
That’s no more evident than in a three-year vision to build a playground for children of all abilities. The idea is nearing culmination, with construction to begin in August.
Near the intersection of Pender Lane and Brighten Lane, the city of Meadows Place and Mayor Charles Jessup are in the final stages of overhauling an old portion of the playground with artificial turf and all-inclusive equipment for children and individuals with disabilities.
Jessup said the journey began in 2016, when the city’s Youth Action Council (YAC) and director Colene Cabezas planted the seed during a state convention. Meadows Place YAC is a group of 9th-12th graders serving as the voice of teens in the community, promoting leadership through volunteerism and making a positive impact.
“They saw a kid that was in a wheelchair that was having a tough time getting around to things, so they thought they could do something about that here in Meadows Place,” Jessup said.
Jessup took the suggestion of a youth group member to the city council, where he said it was overwhelmingly approved. So during the last few years, some of the older equipment has been removed, while swings and other equipment specifically for those with disabilities are in the works.
“We’ve got trails and things to get to all the other equipment, but (children with disabilities) can’t get it into some of the other equipment. That started a conversation, and it grew from there,” Jessup said. “They said, ‘We won’t be here to see it, but if we start fundraising now, at some point in the future, someone will benefit.’ And we think that’s a worthwhile goal. Instead of an instant gratification, they went out and put together a long-term project.”
Over the last three years, the YAC has conducted fundraisers at city events and taken part in city auctions to help fund the revamped park, which Jessup said will cost about $225,000. The YAC raised about $7,000, and other installments of $40,000 came from the Helfman family, which owns Helfman Ford at 12220 Southwest Fwy.
“We appreciate the Helfmans’ commitment to community service, are excited by their energy and, with their help, expect even greater things for Meadows Place,” Jessup said.
Eric Helfman said he heard about the plans for the playground through a chance encounter with a customer who told him of the community’s need.
“She really was asking for just a swing set, but then I thought why stop there? There might be more people in the community who could use something of that nature – it turns out there were so many more people who would appreciate having something like that,” he said. “What people in a community want and need to feel is that sense of being included. Despite the differences the community has, they can all appreciate each other because all their needs are able to be addressed.”
Additionally, Sugar Land-based Multi-Medical Equipment & Supplies recently donated 10 new, wheelchairs as part of the ongoing effort to make Meadows Place parks and facilities more accessible.
“If I can give back and make an impact on my community that’s supported me and stay local, I’m going to do it,” said Adam Burck, owner of the medical supplies company. “I’m trying to stay loyal to those who have supported me.”
Ultimately, Helfman said, inclusivity can be a binding and unifying force. So he was glad to contribute to his neighbors.
“That’s powerful, because when people feel a part of things, I think they’re less likely to have the sort of problems other communities have when there’s a lack of communication or connection,” he said. “When you get that sense of ownership and being a part of a community that feels heard, that’s something that elevates a community. It creates so much vitality for the community as a whole.”
Jessup thinks the park is only the beginning of what’s to come for the city.
“We’re going to keep chipping away,” he said. “We’ve got big ideas, and we manage to get them done.”