Volunteers help build community playground in Flanders

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Community members begin to put the pieces together at Iron Point Park Saturday morning.


A Riverhead student’s vision came to fruition Saturday as about 50 volunteers gathered at Iron Point Park in Flanders to help build a new community playground.

Piece-by-piece, volunteers from Southampton’s Project Venture youth group, Flanders ambulance, Flanders Little League, and the Flanders-Riverside Community Association, put the playground together.

A $15,000 grant, given by KaBoom! and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, got the project off the ground, said Karen Hurst-Matz, youth counselor for the Town of Southampton Youth Bureau. The grant was given as part of the company’s Let’s Play program, an initiative to get children active.

In total, the project cost $34,000, including the grant money. The Southampton town board donated $5,000 and Panera Bread in Hampton Bays gave $2,000. Donations from businesses, fundraisers and other organizations helped make up the difference, Ms. Matz said.

“The kids were the real catalyst behind it all,” said Brad Bender, president of the Flanders-Riverside Community Association. “It is one of the things that had been missing here for a long time. Sometimes it takes the young adults to get us adults going.”

The playground, geared toward kids ages 5-12, has been in the works for about two years and was originally envisioned by kids in the town’s Project Venture youth group. Ms. Matz said youth member Jeremias Hernandez came up with the idea.

“I felt like it would be safer to have a park for kids to play at on this side of the highway,” said Jeremias, who’s 14.

He said a few years ago a classmate was struck by a car trying to cross a busy street to get to a park.

Seeing the need for another park, he told Ms. Matz and the other students about his idea. The new park is the second in Flanders and only one north of Route 24.

From there Ms. Matz went to work. She spoke with Karin Johnson, who at the time worked for Southampton town. Ms. Johnson had access to a grant database and found out about the Let’s Play program.

After receiving the grant, the youth group and community association have held car washes and raffles to raise the remaining funds.

[email protected]

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Southampton Project Venture youth group members Emily Lopez, 14; Keyanna Blackwell, 16; Ciara Fuentes, 15; Jeremias Hernandez, 14; and Robert Scott, 15; who came up with the idea for a playground.