GARY | Tomisha Lee, 18, grew up near Gary's Buffington Park, but never played there.
“When I was a kid that park was never a park,” she said. “It was always damaged. No swings, no playground, trash everywhere.”
Lee was one of the about 80 Gary residents, including nine teenagers, who restored Buffington Park in May after the Bridgette C. Kelly Youth Foundation adopted the decrepit park through the city's new Adopt-a-Park program. It took a year of planning, 13 hours of hard work and $4,000 in raised funds.
Vandals tore up the park one night less than a month later, destroying plantings and lighting fires under signs and the playground equipment.
“I was upset because we tried to give to the community, and people destroyed things,” Lee said.
But less than a month after the vandals had their way, the Gary community is helping restore the park again. Volunteers will be working from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m. today and Thursday in the park, 200 E. Seventh Ave. People wanting to help can show up at the park during those times, said foundation head Staff Sgt. Bridgette Kelly.
“It was just amazing, the support that we got from the community, from the city administration,” Kelly said. “Everybody really stepped up to give donations.”
Local businesses like Gary-based Kidstuff Playsystems and Merrillville's A&S Landscaping are donating materials and time. Groups like the Gary mayor's office and the East Chicago nonprofit E.C.H.O. also helped, Kelly said.
“It still needs some minor things to be done with it to make it 100 percent safe, but right now it's workable and safe,” she said.
Youth foundation member Ja'Mire Wayne, 18, said she always knew the vandals wouldn't have the last word.
“I was real hurt about it, but I knew it wasn't going to be the last stage,” she said. “I knew we were going to be going back and do something.”