By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — Wyandotte-based insurance companies came together to provide the funding and supplies necessary to keep the Green Box program going another year.
The Green Box program was created during the 1940s to provide children with free summer activities, Recreation Supt. Justin Flanagan said. The program runs for about six weeks in the summer. Flanagan said the program begins a week after the start of summer vacation.
The first day of the program, this year, was June 24. The green boxes, at F.O.P., Pulaski, Jaycee and VFW parks, are actually green and measure eight feet long, three feet high, and three feet wide. All the boxes contain board games, arts and crafts, and other sports equipment like jump ropes, basketballs and footballs.
The program operates Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free to anyone in attendance.
Eric Karns represented the Karns, Sitkins, and Payette Insurance Company and said he participated in a similar program in Trenton when he was younger and understands the importance of children having a place to go and stay out of trouble.
“It is really important and we are honored to be a part of (the program),” he said. “We were asked to jump on board and couldn’t say ‘no.’”
Wyandotte funded the program until 2011, Flanagan said, when the city eliminated the program from the budget. According to the city clerk’s office, the council was originally going to cut the program in 2010, but the council decided to fund it until 2011 to explore external funding options.
Mayor Joseph Peterson said without commercial support, the city would not have the opportunity to continue the Green Box program.
Flanagan made a presentation to the council introducing the companies — Daly Merritt; Karn, Sitkins and Payette; and E.W. Smith — and expressed his gratitude for the donation.
“It’s because of these businesses that this great program has been able to keep going even though the funding had been cut,” Flanagan said. “I can’t express my gratitude enough for what they’ve done for the Green Box program.”
Last year, the insurance companies presented the city with the $10,000 necessary to fund the program. This year, three insurance companies provided $7,800 to cover the program costs and donated arts and crafts supplies and sports equipment.
He said the companies provided basketballs, footballs, whiffle balls and bats, and the necessary equipment to play knock hockey.
“Some of the games they play, I cannot tell you where they came from,” Flanagan said. “Such as knock hockey. Imagine a minature air hockey table with no air and they are using wooden pucks and wooden paddles. They shoot one shot at a time and try to score through a small goal at the end of the knock hockey board.”
He said the money will be used to restock any additional equipment to meet the needs of the children. Although it received a significant amount of money, he said, the Parks and Recreation Department had to eliminate field trips to save $2,200.
There is a green box leader, who supervises the children during the day. This year, Flanagan said, the program has paired up with the Children Resource Network to provide bagged lunches for all Green Box attendees.
The money was presented to the council June 24 by Mike Ugljesa and Marty Daly from Daly Merritt Insurance, Doug Ochmanek, president of E. W. Smith agency and Eric Karn. Ugljesa said the program was too big of a program and it meant too much to the community to allow it to simply disappear, so the companies came together and pooled their resources to provide the funding.
“We couldn’t imagine it not being available to the kids,” Ugljesa said. “We were compelled to help out because of the experiences we had with the program as kids.”
Daly said while the companies compete in the business realm, the program is much more important than that.
“Most or all of us participated in the Green Box program as kids,” Daly said. “We all had some good memories, so we all feel great about giving back to the community in this way.”
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])