JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Episcopal Children’s Services held an event to celebrate the grand opening of a new playground at the Northside Early Head Start Center in Northwest Jacksonville.
The playground at the center on West 18th Street at Moncrief Road was funded by a $25,000 grant provided by The Players Championship to support the organization’s outdoor play and learning project.
“Up until then, what we had was a little too big for our smaller children, and we needed a grant, and we applied, and they saw the need and responded to us, and as you’ve seen, these little small children out here playing all day they love this playground,” said ECS CEO Connie Stophel. “We really appreciate The Players Championship because, without these kinds of grants, we wouldn’t be able to afford them.”
The grand opening included a dedication to The Players for its partnership on the project.
“This is why we volunteer. There are tremendous volunteers that are dedicated to the tournament to make sure it’s one of the best sporting events there is in the world, but the impact that it has in our community is just tremendous,” said Tyler Oldenburg, volunteer vice chairman for The Players. “Being able to be here and deploy resources where our children really need, it’s tremendous. That’s our mission and that’s our focus and that’s why we volunteer.”
Oldenburg said the unveiling of the playground is something that hits close to home.
“I’ve got three young kids, so I know how important it is to be able to play outside and what kind of development and growth it comes with playing outside,” Oldenburg said. “It’s just terrific to see them enjoying it so much as they are.”
ECS serves thousands of children, many of whom as at risk, in 14 counties in Florida.
“I will tell you that at this center, this is at 18th and Moncrief. I know, if you watch the news at night, you hear the gunshots and people that have been shot. This center has bullet holes in it,” Stophel said. “This is one of the high-risk areas.”
Over the past 40-plus years, The Players has supported more than 300 nonprofits in Northeast Florida.