When it comes to helping the children of Everglades City, the community and their organizations never hesitate to jump on a solution. Our public park, before the devastation Hurricane Irma brought us, and even when I was a child, was full of fun, recreational equipment for the kids that live in the area and the tourists who bring their families to visit. Living so close to the park, my parents would take me there every day after school to play with my friends that would also be there playing. Our park is the centerpiece of the town, every event you can think of is hosted there. Family reunions, birthday parties, city events such as our Fourth of July and Halloween celebrations and even “Hot Summer Nights” hosted by the Collier County Sheriff’s Department; the park is what brings the community together.
Ever since Hurricane Irma our town is still trying to build back what we lost; the park now only has three slides, one large and two small ones, a tennis court and basketball court. With the lack of a playground for parents and guardians to take children to, the Everglades Lions Club stepped in to help. The Everglades Lions Club is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that has helped the community in more ways than one. After Hurricane Irma, they created a GoFundMe and collected $26,000 and gave to multiple families, helping them with what they lost. Tammie Pernas is the Treasurer of the Everglades Lions Club and detailed that the organization wanted to make a bigger impact on the community as a whole, so they came up with the idea of rebuilding the park. “A park is used greatly by the community, so we thought that is where we should focus our efforts on,” stated Pernas. They began raising money for the park back in November of 2018 by hosting cookouts at the park with live music and purchasing a ticket
for the dinner. The first cookout had “Cecil’s famous grilled chicken,” which was the recipe from Cecil Barker, an Everglades Lions Club member. The next event was held in January of this year and was very successful. The dinner was a low country boil accompanied by live music from the band “The Hot Country Band.” The event was so successful, they sold out with 189 dinners. In March the cookout involved a smoked pulled pork dinner with “The Hot Country Band” back to play. Just recently in April for the museum celebration, the Everglades Lions Club had a lunch event in the park with the smoked pulled pork and sold out before 11:30 AM. At noon Pernas affirmed people were still lining up, both locals who really liked the pork and even tourists stopped by for the event. Even though they sold out of the pulled pork lunches they had a backup plan and began cooking burgers and sold out again. The organization advertised the events several ways from posting on their Facebook page, Lions Club of Everglades, to putting up flyers in public buildings, like our post office, all around Everglades City. Other nonprofit organizations as well as private owners have donated to the Everglades Lions Club for the restoration of the park, but the goal still isn’t reached. The goal is $95,000 and they still need $30,000 more to go to reach it.
The kids that live in Everglades City and surrounding areas such as Chokoloskee and Plantation Island want a new park, there hasn’t been a decent one in years for them to go to. “A lot of parents are asking about the new park and when it is going to be done so they can take their kids to a safe environment to play,” acknowledged Pernas. Even myself, who is an aunt to three children under four, when I take my nieces and nephew to the park, they go down the slide a few times and they’re done because there is nothing there for them. The new equipment for the park would have an area for children age two to five and the other half would be for kids ages five to twelve (and older). There will also be wooden mulch pellets surrounding the equipment that are made specifically for playgrounds, and not plastic pellets that harms the environment. The playground will also have infant swings and regular swings so it will be for all ages. Playgrounds help kids stay fit, it gets them outside and even builds communication skills when there are other kids playing as well. The Everglades Lions Club has been so generous to our community and with this plan for the playground and new park in motion I am so excited to see what the future holds for the kids in this area.
If you would like to donate to the Everglades City Lions Club for the park you can contact them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail to Lions Foundation of Everglades P.O. Box 189 Everglades City, FL 34139.
University of Florida student Savannah Oglesby has lived in Everglades City her entire life. A lover of nature; some of her favorite things are sunsets, night lightning and mountains. She enjoys adventures and spending time with family, friends and two orange tabby cats. She also enjoys travelling, taking photos of nature, learning about extreme weather and seeing the world in different perspectives. Savannah’s love for Everglades City, and its history, is endless.