FLINT, Mich. – Nancy Edwards has worked for the Genesee County Parks & Recreation Commission for more than two decades.
In her current role as grants officer and director of Keep Genesee County Beautiful, which is under the commission, she says park beautifications would not happen without the help of grants.
She made the observation shortly before the unveiling of the freshly refurbished basketball court at William Durant Park in late July, which was sponsored by the FlintNOW Foundation, which was created by Flint native and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores in the wake of the Flint water crisis.
“I can't do these projects without grant funding,” Edwards said. “This court renovation was grant funded. Unless we have access to these grant resources, we can't make this happen because the city's budget doesn't allow for it.”
FlintNOW, the commission and Flint native Jamiersen Green unveiled the court and mural on the city’s north side. It’s the third such refurbishment in Flint. Windiate Park was completed last summer, and resurfacing at Riverside West Park was completed earlier in July. Funding for the three park projects was provided in part by a $100,000 grant from FlintNOW.
“The best solutions always start on the ground, with neighbors joining hands and rolling up their sleeves to bring their vision and creativity to life,” Gores said in a release. “I’m proud we could help bring this group together again to be impactful in another Flint neighborhood. Kids and families on the north side deserve more safe and inspiring places to play.”
Former Flint Beecher star Monte Morris, who was recently acquired by the Pistons, made a point to show support at the unveiling in the city he calls home. He will conduct a basketball camp in Flint later in July.
After acknowledging Gores and the Pistons, Morris explained why giving back in Flint is important to him.
“For one, this is my city,” he said. “Secondly, I’m a Detroit Piston and anything I can do to impact the youth and impact the community, the community needs this. And we’re going to keep doing more like this to keep the community together and shine a light on it. We get a lot of negative publicity. It’s on me and I’m going to take pride in it all year to just do stuff around here and just get that juju back going around here. It’s easier now to do it now that I’m 45 minutes away.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by representatives from all the organizations involved in the parks project: FlintNOW, GCPRC, Leader Quality (a multidimensional creative agency founded by Green), and Pistons executives and employees. Representatives from Platinum Equity, the private equity firm founded by Gores in 1995, were also in attendance.
After the unveiling, the Pistons conducted a basketball camp, which was attended by roughly 50 youths.
The idea for the parks program originated with Green, an artist and Flint native who had previously worked with the Pistons organization and approached the FlintNOW Foundation about working together on the courts project.
The court mural unveiled Saturday in Durant Park was designed by Green with input from community stakeholders.
“The artwork on this year's court is an extension of our design at Windiate Park featuring arms of the community reaching out for a common goal,” Green said. “The arms of the community encompassing a heart-shaped basketball symbolizing the restoration of joy, love, peace and power to the north side, and Flint as a whole.”
FlintNOW was created by Gores to provide private sector support for immediate relief efforts during the water crisis, and for long-term programs focused on economic development, nutrition and health care for city residents. FlintNOW partnerships include a $2 million pledge from Tom Gores and Consumers Energy to start the Flint Promise scholarship program, a $25 million economic development program launched with Huntington Bank, a healthy foods initiative in partnership with the National Basketball Players Association and Michigan State University-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, and numerous campaigns that have provided millions of dollars in support to local Flint charitable organizations.