Make Every Block Better Grant Helps Revitalize a Nearly Century-old Park in Newport, Rhode Island
H&R Block and Nextdoor have partnered to Make Every Block Better in communities across the United States. Now in its third year, the partnership allows community members to nominate projects that uplift and improve their neighborhood and give people a place to connect. Read below to learn how Make Every Block Better funds made an impact in Newport, Rhode Island and visit the partnership website to learn about the 30 other projects spanning the nation.
Luce Park, named after Rear Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce, a prominent naval officer and Newport, Rhode Island citizen, was in need of some serious TLC. The nearly century-old park sits on a corner lot in the Top of the Hill neighborhood. While amenities and landscaping had been added throughout the decades, the once beautiful Kwanzan cherry trees, originally planted in the 1950s with an anticipated 35-year lifespan, were in poor condition and being overtaken with volunteer plants. The park benches were worn and the boulder and plaque honoring Admiral Luce were tucked into the corner and not visible to passersby or park visitors.
“It had become a somewhat uninviting place instead of a green space where kids would play and the community could enjoy the outdoors,” said Maureen Neville, co-president — with husband Sandy — of the neighborhood association. In 2014 and 2019, the association made efforts to improve the space, but they were all cosmetic because the organization didn’t have the financial resources to completely revitalize the park.
“Enter H&R Block and Nextdoor — we were stunned and overjoyed that ‘our ship came in’ and we were selected,” said Maureen. “Getting this grant meant we could now move forward with ideas we’d dreamed about for years but just couldn’t realize. The park was finally going to get the care it needed to become a welcoming, beautiful and safe space!”
Maureen and Sandy moved to the neighborhood in 2003 when they were assigned by the Navy. “It was during this three-year assignment that we fell in love with Newport and the neighborhood, and decided to settle here once we retired,” said Maureen. The Nevilles have lived in the neighborhood continuously since 2010 and each retired as Navy Captains after 30 years of service.
This project helped the Nevilles connect more deeply to the community they already loved. “The interest we showed in the park brought us a lot closer to City departments like parks, zoning, and the city councilors,” said Maureen. “They appreciated our enthusiasm and the significant opportunity H&R Block and Nextdoor were providing through their grant and helped us at every turn. And, the Naval War College Foundation gave us a donation to buy one of three new benches now available in the park.”
With the help of the Make Every Block Better grant and several volunteer workdays, the park has been completely transformed with professional tree and ivy removal, new benches on concrete pads, perennial woodland garden plantings, and now the boulder honoring Admiral Luce is prominently displayed. Maureen and Sandy frequently visit the park and often encounter either someone they know or a new face in the park, all eager to talk with them about how beautiful and welcoming the park has become.
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