By Elizabeth McGuire
If you ask Anissa Castillo what she remembers about volunteering with her young family at the last It’s My Park Day, she will talk of quality time, life lessons and good citizenship. If you ask her kids what they remember, they will say, “digging in the mulch and jumping on rock piles!”
Both answers are perfect.
The Castillos are one of many families using Austin Parks Foundation opportunities to share with their kids the joys of hands-on volunteering.
“We’re teaching the kids about philanthropy in a really positive way, and they don’t even realize they are learning,” Anissa said. “We love that we’re outside, we’re not consuming, and we’re contributing to our space and community.”
The Castillo kids—Rafael (10), Joaquin (8) and Alessia (3)—have grown up in parks and especially love Ramsey Park and Deep Eddy Pool. Thanks to community organizers like their mom, their St. John neighborhood will soon have a park of its own. Anissa is the park committee chair of the St. John Neighborhood Association, and has been working with the city, Austin Parks Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to bring a green space to the area. St. John Park was the first-ever recipient of APF’s Impact Grant, and the group broke ground on their project just a few weeks ago.
“Our zip code has one of the highest percentage of kids under 10 in the whole city,” she said. “We need a park! Parks bring people together and contribute to good health. Construction begins this month and it will be awesome once it’s here.”
Anissa hopes her kids’ commitment to volunteering will only grow from here. They have already considered how to recruit friends to join them. “I would tell them it’s really fun,” said Rafael, “and you get to wear gloves and use tools.”
Even though he enjoys running around and getting dirty at volunteer events, Joaquin understands the main reason his parents take him. “It’s important to help parks because they can make our neighborhood a better place.”
People + Parks is a series by writer and photographer Elizabeth McGuire and is dedicated to showcasing the people who make our work possible. Check out other stories by choosing the People + Parks category on our blog.