By Steven Penn firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — Each year, in honor of Martin Luther King Day, Citizens Energy Group volunteers work to restore an Indianapolis park as part of the Sharing the Dream initiative.
On Thursday and Friday of last week, the facility that was chosen for the sixth annual event was Thatcher Park, 4649 W. Vermont St.
Sarah Holsapple, media relations coordinator for Citizens, said the company partners with construction companies Marksmen Construction Services and Mitsch Design, who do the majority of the pre-work, Indy Parks and the Indianapolis Parks Foundation.
She said the construction companies have been working at Thatcher for about three weeks.
“There was a need for private community rooms (in the front area of the park),” Holsapple said. “These will now be leasable to the public and people can come out here and have a birthday party or a meeting, or a neighborhood gathering. They insulated the duct work in the gymnasium and in (the front room) and repaired some of the water fountains in the gymnasium. So they kind of did the more labor intensive things before our employees came in.”
Holsapple added that about 200 volunteers help over the course of the two-day event.
“(Thursday and Friday) Citizens employees and some Indy Parks employees have been out here doing painting and cleaning,” she said. “The kitchen is getting a makeover, the cabinets have been refurbished, and there are new countertops, a new refrigerator, a new stove, microwaves, and new appliances.”
When deciding what park to restore, Citizens officials work with Indy Parks to find a location.
“We work with Indy Parks and the Parks Foundation,” Holsapple said. “This is our sixth year doing this event. We just meet with them and talk about where we think they might have a need. Unfortunately, there are so many parks — which is a great thing — but they just can’t pay for upgrades to all of them every year.”
Then each year, the event falls on the week before Martin Luther King Day.
“We want it to sync up with MLK Day, because that’s our whole point,” Holsapple said. “We’re trying to honor Martin Luther King and his philosophy and his birthday, all at the same time.”
Carey Lykins, Citizens president and CEO, said the event has a galvanizing effect on the employees who participate.
“The great thing about it is, our folks enjoy doing this so much,” he said. “They have a different experience with one another and they’re making a contribution to the city — they realize that. I subscribe to the theory that when people get out of bed in the morning, they want to go someplace important and make a contribution, make a difference. That’s what these folks are doing; they’re contributing to their community and sharing the camaraderie of one another at the same time. It’s a wonderful win-win kind of deal.”
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard stopped by on Friday to check out the work that had been done. He said he makes time every year to come to the event.
“It’s important to refresh the parks,” Ballard said. “It helps out in a number of ways, obviously, providing capital improvements that otherwise might have been hard to find the funds for.”
He added that it means a lot for a company like Citizens to give back to the community.
“It’s amazing and I like when they do so they can use the phrase ‘Sharing the Dream,’” Ballard said. “I really like tying in Martin Luther King … and the core vision of what he was trying to say. I’m very proud of them for doing that. I’m very proud that their whole force comes out.”