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Pogo Park

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Community & Neighborhood Development, Economic Development, Environment, Job Training, Land Resources Conservation, Parks & Playgrounds

Mission: Our mission is to transform little-used city parks into safe, vibrant, and magical places for children to play, and to use the transformation of parks as a vehicle to transform the community.

Results: In one of the Bay Area’s toughest inner-city neighborhoods, Richmond’s Iron Triangle, we are transforming two little-used city parks (Elm Playlot and Harbour-8 Park) into safe and vibrant places for children to play. We have a team of 10 local residents – who plan, design, build (and now manage!) these two parks themselves. We aim to use the transformation of Elm Playlot and Harbour-8 Park as a vehicle to improve the health of 5,000 of at-risk children living in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood. In 2015 Pogo Park was named a model for the state of California. According to California State Parks manager Viktor Patino, “The Pogo Park model really stands out for how it empowers and involves residents in all three phases of a project: design, construction and park programming. Many times projects fail because there’s lack of ownership by the community. Toody not only involved residents in the design of the park, but she was able to employ them to build it, as well as to supervise and run the park today.” Patino says that during his 16 years of traveling to parks, “this form of community involvement and local stimulus is rare.” California thinks other cities can benefit from learning how the Pogo Park team was able to be successful and is funding a $150,000 research study on the multiple impacts of Elm Playlot on community well being.

Target demographics: 5,000 at-risk children and their families living in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood.

Direct beneficiaries per year: Upwards of 15,000 at-risk children and families visited our parks in Richmond's Iron Triangle.

Geographic areas served: The one square mile Iron Triangle in Richmond is one of the toughest inner-city neighborhoods in the country. A largely Latino and Black population—this is a densely populated neighborhood blighted by gun violence, 50% unemployment, and the environmental effects of bordering one of the largest oil refineries.

Programs: Pogo Park offers free play activities to children in the Iron Triangle, six days a week on a drop in basis. We staff our two Pogo Parks with a core team of community residents. These are people we have empowered (many of whom were unemployed and marginalized) to be full participants in the process of designing, building, and then transforming city parks in their communities into vibrant hubs of community life. We hire and train our team to become "playworkers" who learn how to use enriched play as a vehicle to develop a child's linguistic, social, cognitive, physical and creative skills.

Community Stories

31 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 5

Pogo Park is a welcoming and inspiring place that shares simple nature with a local community. When I first went to Pogo Park, I learned about how the neighbors all pitched in to help build the fence and how they all have "eyes" on what they view as their park. There is a great tricycle path, Zoomba, beautiful trees to provide shade and a place to relax, a tot lot and a place for kids to do their homework. It truly is a special gathering place for the community!!!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Pogo park is such an amazing nonprofit! I attended a fundraising event back in October of 2016 and was in awe in how beautiful the work they were doing was. The playgrounds they built with the help of the community were so amazingly beautiful and carefully thought out. All the staff were so welcoming and friendly. It was truly such an amazing experience to be a part of and be able to see the joy in the children’s eyes as they had a beautiful, clean, and welcoming park to explore and feel safe. Pogo park truly did an amazing job and continues to inspire me with their work every day!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Pogo Park is doing remarkable work with the community in the Iron Triangle. Toody Maher is diligent about working with local residents so that the community's divergent can voices be heard. She is a great facilitator. The community park at Elm Playlot is truly a park made by the people who live in the neighborhood. That's what makes this park unique.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been going to pogo park for years and absolutely love it. The park environment is one of the best I have ever been to. The staffed park keeps it organized and clean and feel like a family. The group of people who work are great and very involved.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Pogo Park is a critical nonprofit in the Richmond community. The access to quality, safe green space serves to bring the community together, and engages people from all walks of life.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Pogo Park is a community gem. Laura and her team were incredibly supportive in helping us (a neighborhood college program) connect with prospective students, and in sharing with us an immensely helpful list of local resources for our students.

Lisette O.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Visited Pogo Park's Elm Playlot in July, 2018. What a beautiful space. Pogo Park has turned this park into a welcoming, well-kept, safe and fun space for the community. What I loved most was that local residents are part of the Park staff. Not only was Pogo Park's Elm Playlot beautifully kept, but the surrounding area was also kept well too. I can only imagine the impact the Park has made on the surrounding community.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I have visited Pogo Park's Elm playlot a few times and love how calm and beautiful it is there. Plus having access to a bathroom and shady spots to sit is great too! There were lots of kids and activities going on. Pogo Park does a great job keeping it clean and staffed.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This is a truly unique little park that the community built from scratch. Pogo Park provides jobs and creates beauty in a much-needed area.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Elm Playlot, the park that was built and run by Pogo Park is an outstanding park. The quality of the park and the change it brought to the neighborhood is phenomenal. Anyone can go see for themselves what a blessing this park is for residents of the Iron Triangle neighborhood.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Pogo Park is doing amazing work in Richmond. It's wonderful to see a community coming together around a project.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I work as a volunteer at Pogo Park and I've lived in the surrounding Iron Triangle neighborhood in Richmond, CA for more than 20 years.

Since Pogo Park began reclaiming some of our dilapidated parks many years ago, our neighborhoods have undergone a metamorphosis.

More than 5,000 children are now within a seven minute walk of one of Pogo Park's playgrounds. All youth are continually offered ever-changing, free play-programming on a drop-in basis, Monday through Saturday in such activities as tetherball, volleyball, football, basketball, soccer, zip-line riding, ping pong, swinging, running, dancing, climbing, wrestling, balancing, boxing, jumping, bike-riding, skateboarding, arts and crafts, chess, puzzles, drawing, painting, sewing, and building.

Pogo Park even recently started a 4 pm Zumba dance class in one of their parks which is now packed with middle-aged women seeking some late-afternoon exercise.

Pogo Park has built sturdy playgrounds with cutting-edge play equipment and radically interactive recreational activities that have not only reinvigorated local youth but energized the whole community.

They are just a superb and outstanding organization.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I want to commend Pogo Park for their impressive work as one of our district's official distribution points to provide nutritious food through the local school district’s free meals program. Each summer, Pogo Park serves more than 10,000 healthy meals to hungry children in their neighborhood which is in the center of the city of Richmond, CA.

Pogo Park's remodeled playgrounds are the perfect places for kids in our economically challenged community to receive a nutritious meal and participate in a range of recreational activities during the summer months.

Their parks have become critical hubs in our community offering thousands of children mental, physical and spiritual nourishment.

Pogo Park is a sanctuary for our school district's kids and I can't recommend their work more highly.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Pogo Park is an astonishingly creative and hard-working non-profit organization that reclaims and rebuilds abandoned urban parks in the Iron Triangle neighborhood in the City of Richmond, CA.

Each summer I work as a volunteer for Pogo Park which organizes "The Pogo Park All-Stars" at its renovated parks – a work and training program for local 11-14 year old children that positively affects a group of young people who are at a critical developmental phase of their lives. Pogo All-Stars learn to supervise the parks, design and build unique play elements, and play with children.

In our community in inner-city Richmond there are few programs for young people during the summer months and "The Pogo All-Stars" program has been a godsend. Instead of wandering the streets looking for something to do, Pogo Park offers local teens an opportunity to learn from supervisors and also mentor young children. It has been a fantastic success and is just one of the many inventive activities that Pogo Park has created for the community.

I can't recommend the Pogo Park organization enough. They have been such an amazing positive force in our community.

Advisor

Rating: 5

Today, roughly 83% of Americans live in an urban environment, and Pogo Park is concentrating efforts to reclaim public green spaces serving residents in inner-city, disadvantaged communities – often their only contact with nature.

Over the last decade, Pogo Park, a local non-profit in Richmond, CA, has pushed to transform abandoned parks into thriving, green children's play spaces in the city’s Iron Triangle neighborhood, a neglected community of color with roughly 13,000 residents.

The Iron Triangle suffers from high rates of unemployment and poverty, underfunded schools, violence and urban decay. The area is surrounded by large manufacturing plants including the Chevron Refinery, Port of Richmond, BNSF Railroad, I-580 Freeway and Richmond Parkway that contribute to the neighborhood’s high levels of ground, water, and air pollution.

Through the building of its refurbished parks, Pogo Park has provided work-skill training, and badly needed jobs to local residents. They have beautified the neighborhood with lush green spaces, and they are transforming a car-centric neighborhood into pedestrian and bicycle-friendly terrain. Pogo Park is extending the power of parks into nearby streets thereby increasing safety, eco-awareness and hope.

In all my years working as an urban design consultant I’ve never been as excited as I am with Pogo Park's ongoing work. Their success is the result of more than 10 years of neighborhood efforts ignited from the ground up. They have empowered residents to heal themselves, drastically changed the trajectory of thousands of lives, and injected a strong measure of environmental and social justice into a severely disadvantaged community.

The Pogo Park organization is expertly managed and is a powerhouse in our community. I strongly urge anyone interested in youth, jobs, play, community organizing, eco-spaces and economic growth in a severely disadvantaged community to take a look at its website: www.pogopark.org ..... and most of all, pay them a visit.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Rich active outdoor play is the engine that drives healthy child development. Research shows that such play improves physical health and boosts social skills, empathy, creativity, and imagination. Pogo Park promotes deep play—the kind that feeds children’s bodies, minds, and spirits and connects them to nature, the community, and their own inner strengths.

I have worked as a volunteer for Pogo Park for nearly a decade and I have seen the overwhelming power of building strong, safe playgrounds with a rich program of activities within a short walking distance of children who need it most - those living in the inner-city.

Pogo Park has changed Richmond's Iron Triangle neighborhood with its multi-layered approach to urban renewal by building a spectacular network of verdant parks accessible to more than 5,000 children in the community.

But Pogo Park hasn't just built the parks and left. They've stayed deeply involved by hiring local residents to manage the parks, conduct sports programs and other enrichment activities. Many of the impoverished kids in this community once had nowhere to go and nothing to do after-school and on weekends. Now they have all been flushed out of their houses and into local playgrounds to play with friends, socialize with other families and connect with mentors who know them and their neighborhood best.

Pogo Park is one of the most impactful non-profit organizations I've ever seen or had the pleasure to work with. I highly recommend coming out to Richmond sometime and seeing the incredible work they are doing.

Advisor

Rating: 5

I have worked as an advisor for several years for Pogo Park, a community-based nonprofit organization in the city of Richmond, CA that re-claims, transforms, rebuilds and then manages abandoned inner-city parks into "Pogo Parks": enriched play spaces for at-risk children to learn, grow, and thrive.

After a decade of effort, Pogo Park has renovated two central city parks (Elm Playlot and Harbour-8 Park) in Richmond's one-square mile “Iron Triangle” neighborhood - a low-income community of color whose 13,000 residents suffer from the devastating effects of poverty, violence, poor-performing schools, blight, unemployment, and hopelessness. The 5,000 children of this community suffer disproportionately from poor health due to bad diets and lack of exercise. More than 50% are overweight; their rates of asthma are in the highest 2% of the state; they have high rates of diabetes, ADD, nature-deficit disorder, depression and a variety of additional health issues according to recent state health statistics.

Before Pogo Park came along, these children were trapped inside their homes because their local streets and public parks were inaccessible and (in the words of local residents) "dirty, dull, and dangerous." National research studies all confirm the critical importance of play in a child’s healthy development. Today, the two "Pogo Parks" are functioning as a powerful health intervention into the lives of thousands of vulnerable, underserved neighborhood children and their families that actually works.

There are a number of compelling reasons: Pogo Park designs and builds their parks from the "ground up" with the active input and engagement of local residents (rather than imposing play structures from "the top down").

With the collaboration of the community Pogo Park then develops innovative play programs involving "loose parts" that allow children to create, build and then disassemble structures. We add creative activities such as Zumba dancing, chess competitions and art classes. We construct innovative play structures like zip-lines, forts, disc swings and roped spider webs.

Then Pogo Park staffs their parks with adult supervision at all times - many are parents of the very kids they're watching. The result has been magical, packed and safe playgrounds filled with healthier kids and families supervised by local residents with an increased connection to and investment in their communities.

Pogo Park’s impact is visible in the lives of the local residents they have hired, in the parks that are being restored, and in the electrifying effect of this child-based community development model on the entire neighborhood. Pogo Park has found a way to engage impoverished communities to heal themselves, creating a paradigm for urban renewal that can be rolled out nationally.

I can't speak highly enough about Pogo Park's work and vision. They are truly a top-notch organization that is changing thousands of lives everyday.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have donated to Pogo Park for many years and know that every dollar I've donated goes directly into building and managing their amazing urban parks. The Iron Triangle neighborhood in the City of Richmond is one of the most disadvantaged communities in California with high rates of unemployment, poverty and violence. What better way to counter these elements than building a series of beautiful, restored parks with easy access where families can gather and children can exercise, learn critical social skills and play. These urban parks are often the only chance many Iron Triangle residents have to interact with nature. Having these flourishing green playgrounds provides a critical foundation for the overall physical, social and mental health of the whole community. Again, I can't think of a dollar better spent!!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

As a visitor to the City of Richmond over many years, I'm astounded at the work of Pogo Park. This non-profit organization employed a unique strategy in renovating abandoned city parks and transforming them into critical places for local kids to play. One of their key methods was to form a large grass-roots community effort to enlist residents in the design, construction and management of their own parks. The result is the community has an emotional investment in the health and welfare of the parks. The results have been spectacular. Not a spec of trash or graffiti and the playgrounds are now filled with laughing and exercising children. Pogo Park has had a tremendous impact on the social health and well-being of this community. If only every city had a non-profit as well run and far-seeing as this.

Advisor

Rating: 5

I am a photographer and was introduced to the work of Pogo Park by friends in the neighborhood. I've been visiting their renovated parks for several years and the impact they've had on the community has been profound. I first came to the area more than a decade ago and the parks in inner-Richmond then were completely abandoned and covered in graffiti. Now I visit and am astounded to see hundreds of children playing in safe, open environments with innovative new play structures and creative play programs. Kids are our future and play is critical to their development. I can't think of money better spent than these rebuilt parks that have completely revitalized the whole neighborhood creating green, beautiful sanctuaries for families and their kids. The ripple effects of good feeling and hope have been profound. A truly great organization!