New Parks & Recreation Initiatives

Meridian, Miss. Kelvin McGruder is the new assistant director for Meridian's Parks and Recreation Department. He talked with Newscenter 11 about 25 initiatives that are either new or being revitalized for the department.

"We can't solve all of the youth crimes problems. We can deter some of the things by keeping them busy," says McGruder. "Once the new sports complex is built in Highland Park with the gyms in it, I think it will be a great opportunity for us to do some more programs, but this is just a start. It's the mayor's initiative to make sure that Parks and Recreation is the centerpiece for youth programs."

Many of the initiatives center around revitalizing Velma Young and Highland Parks. One of the initiatives reopens the community center at Velma Young Park.

"Basically, the community center there is open to the public from 8 o'clock until 1 and there is nothing going on. " says McGruder. "So, we're putting televisions in there. We're putting games in there. We're putting computers in there. We're going to try to do GED classes, computer classes and anything that the community needs; you might just want to go in and have a cup of coffee and watch TV or the news. Those are some things that we are going to provide for the community."

Other initiatives include a city sponsored luncheon which honors volunteers with the foster grandparents program, and partnering with Meridian Public Schools to recognize students, teachers and staff who excel.

"The money has been in the budget in the past, and we've moved some things around," says McGruder. "A lot of the things are in kind like the parts for the Boys and Girls Club and Velma Young. The Boys and Girls Club is going to install the computers over there, and all the city has to do is maintain the building. We kind of make ends meet by partnering. This is important for us because we want the people to feel that the community is safe, and that the children need to be raised in the community, and I think that once you do that, the whole city and community benefit from it."

Here's a listing of the new and revitalized programs for Meridian's Parks and Recreation Department.

1. "Pizza With Percy" in conjunction with MPSD PBIS initiative for students in elementary and middle schools who maintain honor roll, with no behavior citations and no unexcused absences. (Co-sponsored by Papa John's Pizza.)

2. Grandparent's luncheon: Recognizing grandparents as a part of Grandparent's Day in conjunction with the Foster Grandparent's program.

3. MPSD Teacher and Staff recognition in conjunction with the business, Cartoons and Balloons.

4. National Day of Play in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club. (Held September 21st. from 10 AM until 2 PM in Highland Park.)

5. "FUN at the Young!" - Fall break activities at Velma Young Park (October 7th. - 8th.)

6. Punt, Pass and Kick (NFL Initiative)

7. Pitch, Hit and Run (MLB Initiative)

8. Hot Shot Competition (NBA Initiative)

9. 3 on 3 Tournaments @ Highland Park and Magnolia Park

10. "Walk to School Initiative" in conjunction with MPSD in October.

11. Reopening of the Velma Young Community Center. Will provide access to GED and computer programs for residents who live on the east side of Meridian. A computer lab will be provided through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. Recreational programs, computer access, checkers or chess will be offered during the non-peak use hours of 8 am until noon. The building is open from 2 PM until 7 PM for the Boys & Girls Club.

12. Parkview PE program at the Velma Young Center. This strengthens the partnership with the Meridian Public School District to support PE programs at Parkview Elementary by utilizing the Velma Young Center during inclement weather.

13. Merging Queen City Kickball under the City of Meridian Parks and Recreation Department to enhance opportunities for women to participate in healthy and FUN activities.

14. Parks and Recreation Intramural sports coordinated through MPSD's Physical Education Department.

15. Open gym for basketball. Operations hours and days will differ for teens and adults.

16. Frank Cochran Center PE programs for special needs children and daycare centers.

17. Spring Fling Basketball Tournament

18. Enhancing the Junior Golf Program.

19. Teen Summer League Basketball

20. Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament for men.

21. Queen City Easter Golden Egg Softball Tournament for men

22. Pre-season baseball clinic

23. Pre-season baseball tournament for 7 & 8-year-olds and 9 & 10-year-old's that will be held at Phil Hardin, Magnolia and Crestwood fields.

24. Post Season baseball tournament for 7 & 8-year-olds and 9 & 10-year-old's that will be held at Phil Hardin, Magnolia and Crestwood fields.

25. Summer/End of School Jam