A Reimagined Baseball Field Comes to Life in Greater Chicago Community with H&R Block Make Every Block Better Community Grant
For the third consecutive year, H&R Block and Nextdoor are partnering to Make Every Block Better in communities across the United States. The partnership brings to life community-nominated projects that improve the spaces and places where neighbors connect. The initiative invites changemakers to submit local projects for grant funding and volunteer support. Communities from around the country nominated projects that uplift and improve their communities and give neighbors a better chance to connect with one another.
Riegel Farm Field is a treasured historical landmark in the University Park, Illinois, community. Recognizable by the more than 100-year-old barn it sits next to, the space was once a neighborhood hub that teemed with local children and families playing baseball, neighbors having cookouts, and many other community activities.
The park has a “deep-rooted history that goes back to when the village first started,” said Village of University Park Board of Trustee member Theo Brooks. But, to the disappointment of long-time residents and new neighbors alike, Riegel Farm has fallen into disrepair in recent years.
Donna Dilworth, a local volunteer and resident, envisioned Riegel Farm Field transformed into a “field of dreams.”
“We used to have a lot of different programs at the park,” Dilworth said. “It’s nostalgic for a lot of the people in the community.” Inspired by personal memories and a vision of what the fields could become again, Dilworth created a plan to bring new life to Riegel Farm.
She eagerly submitted her project to uplift the vacant and untended baseball field to the Make Every Block Better initiative. She and community members were overjoyed when they learned the Riegel Farm Field’s rehabilitation was among just 11 projects selected from submissions across the country for inclusion in the 2022 cohort.
Cultivating a “Diamond” Within the Community
After receiving the Make Every Block Better grant, dozens of area residents, H&R Block volunteers, and Nextdoor team members joined forces to jumpstart the field’s refresh. The team trimmed overgrown grass, repainted metal fencing and a storage shed and replaced the pitching mound and home plate area. A professional company renovated the field, creating a durable new infield.
“We’re making sure that the baseball park is used and that the kids have a place to go,” emphasized Dilworth. “This project is that new beginning. I would like to see the same memories I had almost 20 years ago returned to someone else’s kids here at Riegel Farm.”
With helping hands and hard work from dozens of volunteers, the Riegel Farm Field was restored to its former glory.
“I am very excited about how my community has come together to support the project,” remarked University Park Village Board of Trustee member Sonia Jenkins-Bell. “H&R Block and Nextdoor helped us revitalize something that is a precious jewel in our community.”
Thanks to the recent Riegel Farm Field enhancements, more community members are exploring the space and expressing enthusiasm for the possibilities of the entire area.
“Since the field has been open for play, we now see parents practicing with their youth and residents participating in clean-ups,” observed Dilworth. “It feels great to know that H&R Block and Nextdoor are helping University Park be the community that we want to be.”
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