Mike Ealey, Helen Keller Park Supervisor, remembers throwing his first pitch at the West Athens neighborhood park in 1966. And this week, Ealey got a chance to inaugurate a brand new community center that will ensure Helen Keller Park will continue to serve as an anchor for the community.
“Today is a blessed day,” he said to the crowd of several dozen people gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony. The new Helen Keller Community Park Community Building is a 4,000 foot LEED Gold certified facility featuring a new computer lab, arts-and-crafts room, outdoor patio, reception area, full kitchen and new parking lot.
“It takes a village to make all of this happen,” noted Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who helped fund the nearly $7 million investment in the center. “Today is a good day at Helen Keller Park.”
Proving that it takes a village to make something great, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles Chapter and Warner Bros. Entertainment donated $10,000 for a screening room that features a 5×9-foot screen, projector, and surround sound equipment. It will be one of the featured attractions as programming for the park begins in January. There will be movie nights, job training and an after school program and teen club just to name a few of the activities.
Nigel Daly, chairman of BAFTA, who was recently invited into the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to film, said he was honored to be welcomed into the community and told the crowd that he was “One proud Brit.” BAFTA has partnered with the county for nine years on programs teaching children Shakespeare and other arts related programs.
And more is to come at Helen Keller. Just over a year ago, it was discovered that the park was contaminated by construction waste and it was closed. And so, clean up crews have been hired to clean the top layer of soil from the entire park and replace it by the fall of 2015 with drought tolerant plants and a carpet of green grass.
“Our hope is that Helen Keller Community Center will quickly become a hub of activity in this wonderful community,” said Russ Guiney, director of LA County Parks and Recreation. “This is a place where people of all ages can feel welcome.”