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Rochester, MN

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: After the City of Rochester cut its parks and recreation budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, many small parks in Rochester fell into disrepair. To address this, Family Service Rochester improved a pocket park in the City's Friendship Park neighborhood, a diverse, low-income area of the city. This project added new trees, benches and a multilingual information kiosk. A volunteer team dug holes, planted, watered and staked trees. Others chipped in to keep the park free of litter. Organizers say the project demonstrated that residents will invest their time to improve their neighborhood. After the project's completion, volunteers from the initiative were inspired to improve other parks in the area.

Monroe, GA

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: To give people an outdoor space to socialize in the heart of downtown, the City of Monroe transformed its visitor center's concrete patio into a new mini-park. The City brightened up the area by adding planters, seating, outdoor games and a mural painted by local youth. The City then unveiled the new space during the local fall festival. Additionally, project organizers made enhancements to the existing hammock park located next to the visitor's center. The site offers visitors a spot to relax in one of several hammocks. To accommodate more foot traffic, the City added bench swings and pergolas for shade. Inspired by the visitor center improvements, nearby businesses put out their own planters by their storefronts. Project organizers say the upgrades helped lift the spirits of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evanston, WY

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Public space activation

Description: To bring vibrancy to Evanston's downtown, Evanston's Main Street program installed a unique, new seating option. This project added swing tables, which consist of a picnic table with bench seating on one side and swings on the other. Each table also accommodates people who use wheelchairs, who can roll up to either end of the table. To make the seating more comfortable, Main Street equipped each table with shade sails and solar lights. Additionally, the program engaged volunteers to paint pavement murals in the central business district's street crossings. The public art serves a dual purpose -- the murals add color to the streetscape and make crosswalks more noticeable to passing drivers. This calms traffic and increases pedestrian safety.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Albuquerque, NM

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Engaging people in transportation options/safety

Description: To help Albuquerque residents stay physically active and access nutritious food, the Mid-Region Council of Governments repurposed an underused parking lot into a pop-up community wellness and walking hup. Volunteers repurposed wooden pallets to construct benches, tables and planters. They also planted fruit trees and added bird feeders to the site. To give residents a space to meditate, organizers also created a wellness labyrinth onsite. Using paint, they delineated a walking path across the parking lot and created an artistic crosswalk nearby. Additionally, the Council created and displayed interactive walking maps -- available in both English and Spanish -- along with pavement decals displaying QR codes. The QR codes allow smartphone users to access information online about walking and nutrition programs. Organizers say the project is a first step in larger efforts to address health disparities experienced by the community's Latino, Hispanic and Native populations.

Albuquerque, NM

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Developing projects based on residents' priorities

Description: The National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation set out to expand its popular book club for older adults. The club features Hispanic and Latinx authors, often inviting the writers to participate in club meetings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation shifted the book club to a virtual format, which helped expand attendance to members living outside of New Mexico. During club sessions, participants held lively conversations and developed book reviews and discussion questions. Featured books include Argentinian writer Selva Almada's novel, The Wind that Lays Waste and Maria Hinojosa's Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America. Project organizers say the club's success has inspired them to expand programming related to literature and history. Feedback gathered from book club participants will help inform these plans.

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