President Jamey Rootes was the keynote speaker at a LISC breakfast on Wednesday morning. The event was hosted by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and provided an opportunity for guests to network over breakfast while learning about how parks and fields provide more than just places for youth to enjoy, but also spark wider community engagement. The breakfast's topic was "Comprehensive Community Development: How creating safe places to play impacts neighborhood revitalization".
In partnership with the National Football League's Youth Football Fund and the NFL Players Association, LISC created the NFL Grassroots grant program, an initiative aimed at constructing or rehabilitating playing fields in underserved neighborhoods. Since its inception in 1998, the partnership has contributed $28 million to restore or build more than 225 community fields in more than 32 cities nationwide.
Rootes described the football fields and recreational facilities as a "catalyst" for economic growth and development, as well as a way to mold young minds.
"Over the past decade, we've facilitated eight of these projects with nearly a million dollars directly going into the community to build these fields and those funds being matched and leveraged at a three-to-one ratio," Rootes said. "The economic impact is significant; we have the opportunity to facilitate economic growth in those challenged areas of our community and the chance to build the next generation of leaders for Houston."
Besides the economic benefits, the NFL Grassroots grant program provides places to play, opportunities for parents and schools to connect, and places for neighborhood residents to walk, run, exercise and get healthy.
Rootes sees the creation of the Houston Texans YMCA as a prime example of the success of the program. As a recipient of one of the field grants in 2008, the facility now has a $200,000 grant to the YMCA to create a flag football program for the next decade.
"This is an area where things like this would not happen if it wasn't for LISC, the NFL and the Houston Texans saying that it's important that everyone in our community has a place to go to run and play games," Rootes said. "The kids develop the understanding of the importance of teamwork, hard work and perseverance and commitment. It's about developing the leaders of tomorrow and these fields are helping to facilitate that."