Fresno, California, June 2008 – Steven Gonzales, a father of three, watches with pride as his oldest daughter, Lisa, 11, sits with a younger student, helping with her schoolwork. Outside of the Community Room, shrieks of joy echo from the swimming pool, where children in this South Fresno neighborhood know they have a welcoming space to play. Summer Park is a place where involved members help those in need, and Steve has watched the transformation of this community mirror his own.
For nearly a decade, Steve provided for his family as a cabinet maker, while his wife raised their three young children. Five years ago, his ability to financially provide for his family came to an abrupt halt. Steve suffers from repeated seizures, and his declining health led to disability. While he can no longer work at his trade, Steve is now an active member of the community, adding a helping hand and a guiding force for youth whenever he can.
The Resource Center at Summer Park is a central hub of activity for the community. Here, a local nonprofit assists with literacy education, enrichment activities, and homework assistance. The profound success of efforts like these would not have been possible without the engagement of residents like Steve. Steve has found a place where he can provide for his community through active participation. He attends neighborhood watch meetings, and keeps an eye on his neighbors’ children. It is not unusual to see a group of ten or eleven children gathered together, walking with Steve to the church down the road from their home. Once a month, he volunteers at the church with their community soup kitchen, and also volunteers frequently at the cafeteria.
Steve and his children are thriving through community participation. He says, “I think everyone should have a reading lab and afterschool program,” and it impacts children’s lives by “teaching them how to do their homework and be responsible. It gives them good manners … and they have some free time to go play and swim!” He continues, “The kids love it here – everything is great!”