The Patrick County Recreation Department received a $45,000 grant for an inclusive park from T-Mobile on Sept. 23.
The county was selected by T-Mobile as one of the 25 small towns winning Hometown Grants to jumpstart vital community development projects.
The $45,000 grant will help the town install accessibility playground equipment in Dehart Park in Stuart – the only park in the county. The new equipment will be a much-needed addition to foster inclusion in the community.
Patrick County Tourism/Recreation Coordinator James Houchins said he got the idea of applying for the grant after DeHart Park purchased its new playground equipment earlier this year.
“We just heard a lot of people talking about equipment for inclusiveness and that’s for students or people with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),” he said.
Houchins said inclusive playground equipment was brought up in conversation by the Stuart Park & Recreation Association and those coming to the Patrick County Visitor’s Center asking about areas for disability access
“They were asking, and they said, ‘it’s a beautiful area and they loved the park,’ but they wanted to know if there was an area that they could bring their children or grandchildren to that has equipment, because they have disabilities, that they could play with,” he said.
Houchins noted a current trend is to ensure that any and every playground has disability accessible equipment so everyone can be a part of it.
In listening to the conversations and desires of the community and visitors, Houchins said he decided to apply for the grant with the help of West Piedmont Planning District Commission (WPPDC) Community Development Specialist Kathleen McEvoy, who helped the county with its previous T-Mobile grant.
Patrick County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebecca Adcock also wrote a letter of support for the project.
“I applied for the grant, and I applied for the grant with ‘All Play All Day.’ So, it’s an inclusive area that we’re going to be creating here at the park to allow (accessibility to) many other people who would visit the community,” Houchins said, and added the project is two-fold because it is for both the local community and for those traveling in and out of the area.
T-Mobile Rural Market Manager Ashely Womack said the focus on inclusiveness and diversity are two of the objectives that T-Mobile bears in mind.
“When you presented this opportunity to support this initiative, we couldn’t help but want to be a part of it. We are excited for us to be our second grant here in Stuart, Virginia, which is part of our Southern Virginia Market,” she said.
Womack said the Hometown Grant project started in Spring 2021 to help bring communities together. “We can bring 5G here to smaller, rural areas that haven’t had that before, but it’s more about showing up in ways like this,” she said.
Launched in April 2021, T-Mobile Hometown Grants is a $25 million, five-year initiative to support the people and organizations who help small towns across America thrive and grow by providing funding to kickstart important new community development projects. Since the program’s start, T-Mobile has given more than $5.4 million dollars to kickstart 125 community development projects across 37 states.
The Town of Stuart received a T-Mobile Hometown Grant last year to expand public wi-fi along the primary business corridors within the Town’s two historic districts. And the city of Staunton also received a grant earlier this year.
Hometown Grants are provided every quarter to up to 25 towns. Every small town with a population of less than 50,000 people with a vision for how to make their community even stronger than it is today are eligible and encouraged to apply.
Hometown Grants are part of the Un-carrier’s massive 5-year commitment announced in April 2021 to bring 5G to rural America, open hundreds of new stores and support economic development in small towns by providing $25 million in funding.
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