[The following is the text of a speech I gave on April 3, 2009, at the ribbon cutting of a barrier-free Be An Angel playground at Matzke Park. As president of the Association for Better Community Schools (ABCS), I’ve worked with members of the community for the past 15 years to save a 20-acre green space from commercial development. Today, it is a Harris County Precinct 4 park.]
For 15 years, Matzke Park has been a labor of love for many residents in this community. There are a few of us who have been dedicated to this project from the very beginning – I call them my suburban commandos – and I’d like to recognize Joan Fitzgerald, Martin Heemer, Susan Greenwade, Kathy Vawter and Margaret Buchanan.
As head of a volunteer organization, you are always excited when a new volunteer joins the team. So several years into our effort, a woman who had recently retired from Compaq Computer started coming to our monthly meetings. And we are so thankful for Carol Bennet, a master gardener who took charge of the Butterfly Garden development. Thanks to Carol, her husband Chuck and the Norchester Garden Club, our community can enjoy and our children can benefit from the educational value of this unique beautiful setting. It’s truly been a labor of love for Carol. In fact, on the Monday after Hurricane Ike, I ventured out to check on friends in this area and drove by the park to find Carol, Chuck and their family cleaning up debris in the garden. That’s a true labor of love.
And so it was two years ago, when we decided we wanted the playground at Matzke Park to be something special – something that all children could experience and enjoy – that another volunteer stepped forward. She simply wanted to donate a swing set in memory of her late son, Tanner, who was confined to a wheel chair during his short eight years of life. She understood what it was like to go to the playground with her two able-bodied daughters and see her son not be able to play with his older sisters or the other children.
So when Maura Hanlon learned we were considering building a barrier-free playground and stepped forward to make a donation, we said, “Have we got a job for you!” We asked Maura to spearhead the project on behalf of ABCS in coordination with Be An Angel, and she’s been a driving force for getting us to where we are today. She should actually be here at the podium addressing you, but in her quiet and unassuming way, she deferred the job to me. So I want to acknowledge and thank Maura Hanlon for this labor of love.
And to all the community residents who are here today who have given money over the years, supported the Garden Club’s efforts to create the butterfly garden, attended fundraisers for the playground, read years and years of park update articles in the Norchester Times submitted by Joan Fitzgerald – to all of you who have kept the faith, look around you ¬– this is the result of our collective labor of love. And for this, I say thank you.