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5464: Little Haiti builds `oasis for kids' (fwd)
Published Wednesday, November 8, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Little Haiti builds `oasis for kids' BY ANDREA MCDANIELS
As 150 orange-clad volunteers shoveled 200 cubic yards of mulch,
hammered playground posts and prepared to lay down two truckloads of
cement, Kevin M. Crain pored over the plans to transform this empty lot
into a full-fledged community center in Little Haiti. ``This is going to
be an oasis for kids,'' said Kevin M. Crain, the project director at
the Haitian American Foundation, pointing to computer-generated
mock-ups of the center. Also planned for the quarter-acre site at
130-150 NE 79th St.: gardens with native Caribbean plants, a palm tree
court, an ethnic marketplace with crafts and food vendors, community
buildings and an open-air stage where local church choirs
could sing. The park will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood,
where stores still operate behind metal gratings. Little Haiti has two
full parks and five ``mini parks'' -- two-thirds less green space
than most of Miami, said Gregory Gay, urban community planner for the
city. The project is sponsored by the Haitian American Foundation, Home
Depot, and Kaboom, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization that
builds playgrounds nationwide.
Kaboom and Home Depot have collaborated to build 31 other playgrounds
nationwide, said Home Depot Spokesperson Marsha Ferguson. ``It's an
opportunity to reach out to the communities that we do business with,''
she said. The aim is to create a safe community space and take the
children of Little Haiti off the streets -- literally. Most of the
volunteers devoted an entire day to build the playground.
Raul Yruretagoyena, head of commercial sales for Home Depot in Pembroke
Pines, took a week's vacation to work on the park. On Sunday, he dug
holes for metal poles, then cut overgrown grass on the site. On Tuesday,
he hauled mulch and hammered in the posts. ``If it's for kids, I'll do
it. I have three of my own,'' the 42-year-old said, wiping his
forehead. The Haitian American Foundation is ``very excited about the
project,'' said Leonie Hermantin, the organization's executive director.
``This is one more piece to get the community together. Kids usually
play in the street, in the yard, or go sit in the library around the
corner [and cause trouble]. They don't have space to run in and play
in.'' The park will officially open on Thursday with a visit from race
car driver Tony Stewart. The playground will cost $50,000 to build --
$35,000 from Home Depot and $15,000 from the Haitian American
Foundation. The community center will be open in the next two years.
Roger Biamby, administrator at the Neighborhood Enhancement Team, said
none of the ``parks'' in Little Haiti are ``full-service.''
``We need a place where children could play soccer, participate in
after-school programs, cultural activities, and even picnics,'' he said.