Southwest Florida’s largest private homebuilder, Neal Communities, donated $5,000 to the Kiwanis Club of North Port Foundation to help with a proposed project to construct a Storybook Stroll reading program and Little Free Library along a walking path at one of North Port’s neighborhood parks.
Pine Park is located inside Country Club Ridge, a North Port neighborhood off McKibben Drive that was devastated by Hurricane Ian. The small neighborhood park includes a volleyball court, playground, picnic pavilion, picnic tables, outdoor grill and a paved walking trail which the Kiwanis Club hopes will one day be the home of a Storybook Stroll program, said Kiwanis Club member Elaine Allen-Emrich.
“We are putting something together for that neighborhood, and many other people in North Port, that will truly be loved,” said Allen-Emrich, who is spearheading the project. “Neal Communities really catapulted this project from a dream to a reality with their donation.”
With a core belief that “Where You Live Matters,” Neal Communities has given more than $7.5 million to local charities throughout Southwest Florida and is committed to the communities where they live, work and build. The Kiwanis Club of North Port’s project is one of the latest programs to be supported by Neal Communities.
“Neal Communities is happy to support organizations that offer enrichment opportunities for our local youth,” said Pat Neal, founder and president of Neal Communities. “This program is a way to encourage children and families to read together.”
The vision is for Storybook Stroll to be constructed with sturdy holders that allow laminated book pages to be viewed along the looped trail. The concept is that children in wheelchairs or strollers will be able to read pages of the book as they move along the pathway. The featured book would be changed throughout the year. The Kiwanis Club also hopes to construct a Little Free Library along the trail to offer copies of the book as part of a “take a book, return a book” honor system.
Allen-Emrich said the Kiwanis Club had raised $4,000 for the project prior to Neal Communities’ donation and estimates it will need another $2,000 before construction can begin. She said the Club intends to continue its fundraising efforts.
“This is designed to help children with reading and learning. So many children have fallen behind during the pandemic and now Hurricane Ian that anything to provide interest in reading is a boost,” Allen-Emrich said.