In September 2016, Kinder Foundation and Houston Endowment contributed a combined $5 million to SPARK – a Houston-based non-profit that helps public schools develop their playgrounds into community parks – to impact neighborhoods in “park deserts.” The City of Houston committed an additional $450,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding for qualifying schools for this Phase I work.
Underscoring the success of Phase I, the Kinder Foundation and Houston Endowment made a follow-up investment of an additional combined $5 million in March 2020. This Phase II initiative will fund 30 additional park projects through 2024.
Additionally, in September 2023, to commemorate 40 years of building community parks, SPARK received a combined $8 million grant from the Kinder Foundation, Houston Endowment, and The Brown Foundation to build or “reSPARK” 40 additional school parks in the Greater Houston area in four years.
Founded in 1983 by then-Houston City Council Member Eleanor Tinsley, SPARK was created to develop neighborhood parks, and therefore increase access to greenspace, by utilizing land on public school grounds. Today, there are more than 150 active SPARK parks in the Houston/Harris and Fort Bend County area, throughout 18 different school districts. Each park is unique, with its design based on the ideas and needs of the school and surrounding neighborhoods and with input from the school’s PTA/PTO, civic clubs and community members. While all of the parks are different, a typical park consists of modular playground equipment, a walking trail, benches, picnic tables, trees, an outdoor classroom, and a public art component.
“AA Milne, located in Southwest Houston’s Northfield I & II neighborhood, is home to two SPARK Parks! Our SPARK Parks help bridge the gap between our school community, and our geographic community. Those who have yet to venture onto our campus are welcomed with open arms, beautiful, vibrant playscapes and an ART=FUN sculpture that includes students’ artwork! Our SPARK Parks give all community members an opportunity to spend time on campus and connect with our school community. The SPARK Parks have fostered an environment of togetherness and play, and will continue to do so for years to come. Our SPARK Parks had made our community into a family, and for that we are forever thankful.”
– Terese C. Pollard, Principal, A. A. Milne Elementary Schoolsparkpark.org