Investing in the future of the East End with Audubon Kids’ Zone
Every time South Heights Elementary students have been given the support they need, they have prospered, according to Principal Rob Carroll.
A former student, once intermittently homeless as a child, is now on the dean’s list at Murray State University. Another former student is getting her doctor of physical therapy at the University of Evansville.
These are two success stories, but Carroll and the community partners committed to improving the East End want to make it so all students are given the support they need to succeed as adults.
To fulfill that mission, several entities have joined together to build the Audubon Kids’ Zone. Located in the heart of the East End at the corner of Letcher and Powell streets, the facility will help provide support for kids from prenatal to career.
Carroll and his fellow community partners gave an update about the project during a Rotary Club of Henderson meeting on Thursday. An old bank was demolished in June to make way for the new building.
“I always wanted to be like in a movie and walk out in slow motion with the rest of the people that are going to change the world,” said Carroll of his fellow Kid Zone collaborators. “This is the first opportunity that I’ve really got to do that.”
The Raymond B. Preston Family Family Foundation donated a lead gift of $175,000 to start the project. Jennifer Preston told the Rotarians her late father-in-law came from humble beginnings and he was given support to succeed.
He wanted to give those opportunities back to the community. Investing in the Audubon Kid Zone is a wonderful way to do just that, Preston said.
The city of Henderson has committed close to $500,000 to improving the East End, said Assistant City Manager Buzzy Newman. This includes improving roads, gutters and installing sidewalks.
The city has also identified 15 dilapidated homes in the East End that the city commission has budgeted money to have razed. City officials have encouraged the police to develop a neighborhood watch program in the area and there are talks about assigning an assistant police chief to the East End.
“We all know the area out there is somewhat plagued with social issues that need to be addressed,” Newman said. “The only way to improve lives is to minimize the social impacts that these kids face every day.”
The city has a request for proposal out to build a splash pad in the East End park, at Helm and Letcher streets.
The water feature will cost an estimated $100,000 overall and will likely be ready in the winter or spring, said City Commissioner Robby Mills said.
“It is easily, I think, one of the best ideas going on in our community right now,” said city of Henderson Commissioner Robby Mills. “When you can think about how to bridge school and home and how we can reach out and majorly influence people’s home lives and their learning capabilities. That’s a major no-lose situation in my book.”