Jennifer Mullikin spends lots of time in parks, but that doesn’t mean she lets any grass grow under her feet. When she sees a need she feels she can address, she goes for it full-bore.
Jen is a relative newcomer to eastern Madera County, although she’s owned a home in the area for about three years. No stranger to the area, she vacationed in the area as a child and found herself dreaming of living here. Finally deciding to make the move permanent, she arrived just when COVID-19 shut down virtually everything. Almost immediately she realized that, even during the best of times, mountain youth had very few activities to keep them engaged and out of trouble.
Jennifer to the rescue, along with others who embrace her vision.
This was an area where she had the background and education to make a real difference. Earning a BA in Education with an emphasis in early childhood (birth through about 8 years) and over fifteen years working with youth, she felt she had much to offer. Case in point, she assists Yosemite High School with their swimming program, not as a coach or administrator but, as she says, “a piece that helps get it where it needs to be.”
Jennifer states, “As someone who moved to this community in hopes to raise a family here someday, Eastern Madera left a lot to be desired in terms of community and programming. So jumping into a project like this came naturally for me.” She saw foundations that had been laid but hadn’t been fully acted on or had lain fallow for some time. She came to believe this was her part to play.
She set about creating a non-profit group, Eastern Madera Recreation and Parks, which seeks to work with already-existing resources, government entities and local parents and children to provide wholesome, healthy activities. EMRAP currently centers its activities around Oakhurst Community Park, but the organization hopes to spread the word far and wide, seeking to connect with venues from Yosemite Lakes Park to North Fork and beyond. Activities aren’t limited to the summer season or to classes geared for kids. EMRAP embraces all ages and a wide variety of classes.
Jennifer emphasizes that she doesn’t act alone. She may have given Eastern Madera Recreation and Parks a dynamic push, but many people work with her and support the efforts of the organization. Blessed with imagination and an effervescent, engaging personality, Jennifer didn’t know that others had tried to do what she’s implementing, in the past meeting with somewhat limited success. She simply tackled the issue, drew others to her vision and continues to set goals which she and her group are committed to work toward.
Asked about EMRAP’s future endeavors, she cites three:
- EMRAP intends to connect with existing programming, recreation and parks entities offered in the area to centralize access to them in one singular location: their website, which feeds those seeking information to direct contact with websites of other organizations.
- Secondly, they will focus on assisting all current recreation and park facilities in Eastern Madera County because the infrastructure is there. According to Jennifer, “the community just needs reminding.”
- Thirdly, EMRAP intends to focus on enhancing what exists for the youth and families of today.
“Some families can’t afford to make the drive to these far-off places (skate parks, dog parks, Yosemite) for their kids to get these wonderful experiences, other kids don’t find interest in the nature (boating, hiking nature exploring, etc.) aspect that Eastern Madera County provides,” Jennifer explains. “Other families and youth just want to connect with people within our community who share their interests. So we will grow facilities that meet the demands of the youth and families who are here by creating splash pads, dog parks, skateparks and more.”
Children’s events are not the only opportunities on EMRAP’s slate. Now featuring music in the park for the entire family, EMRAP also offers health and art-centered activities for both children and adults such as yoga, utilizing local experienced teachers. Available activities include Story Time in the Park, Relaxation Yoga in the Park, Zumba in the Park, Kids’ Art in the Park, Music in the Park, and Flow (Cardio) Yoga in the Park. These events require advance registration, and are presented as series. A small fee is charged for participation.
EMRAP’s mission is ongoing, with years of work ahead. It will focus not so much on community fundraising but on grant writing and other methods of program development.
EMRAP is a registered 501(c)3 corporation, and all donations are tax deductible. If you are interested in learning more about EMRAP and possibilities for volunteering or supporting their activities, contact them through their website at easternmaderarec.org or their Facebook page.
Do you know of other non-profit organizations with events that deserve an extra spotlight? Contact Judi Hussain at email@example.com .