Wheel of Fortune co-host Vanna White announces how much was raised for Rebuilding Together.
An East Oakland park and recreation center received a funding and publicity boost when members from Rebuilding Together - a nonprofit in partnership with Maxwell House - and Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White and executive producer Harry Friedman - recently visited the facility.
The two were in attendance last Thursday to help break ground on the new garden behind the Carmen Flores Recreation Center at Josie de la Cruz Park. White also unveiled how much money had been donated to Rebuilding Together by Maxwell House by lifting a burgundy silk cover to reveal the amount: $67,500.
Corey Provine, senior brand manager at Maxwell House explained that every time someone wins the bonus round on Wheel of Fortune, Maxwell House donates $2,500 to Rebuilding Together, up to $200,000. The Maxwell House Community Project in June unveiled that it would be donating up to $50,000 to three different community centers in Charlotte, Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
White was happy to dig in, quite literally, as she, along with various community members, local volunteers, Rebuilding Together Oakland staff and representatives for Maxwell House and Wheel of Fortune, planted dozens of plants in 12 new raised beds.
"I was raised in the South and that was always part of my upbringing," White said. "So it warms my heart to be here today and make so many people happy."
Rebuilding Together is a national organization with more than 200 affiliates. Vice President of Marketing Cynthia Woodruff explained that they help more than 600,000 families per year by providing free repairs for homeowners who are unable to afford it themselves.
"We help homeowners who have no heat, no hot water, who are freezing in the winter, who can't get out of their houses because they have no wheelchair ramp," Woodruff said. The partnership with Wheel of Fortune and Maxwell House is great, she added, because, "you (volunteers) don't need thanks because you've got your thanks, but then you come home at night and you put your feet up, and guess what, you guys are on Wheel of Fortune!"
Kym Luqman, executive director of Rebuilding Together Oakland, said 70 percent of what they do is home repairs, the other 30 percent of work is at community centers such as this one.
The attendants were excited by the prospect of being on national television, as well as by the new community garden, which is one of the final additions to the recently restored Flores Recreation Center and Cruz Park.
Many of the Flores and de la Cruz family members were ready to pitch in and help plant the garden during the event. Zoey and Zeanna Batchelder, ages 8 and 9, respectively, said, "our grandmas got this [named park and recreation center] because they were nice and kind to the city of Oakland and they were making the community better."
"The garden is the best thing," David Eastman, grandson of Flores said. "It's gonna make these kids work together and learn to take care of something in order for it to grow."
Cookie Robles-Wong, park supervisor with Oakland Parks and Recreation, said that some of the park design was conceived by famous local architect and city planner Walter Hood. They also used design ideas by students from local schools, housing projects and the University of California, Berkeley. According to Robles-Wong, the park used to be beautiful, but was no longer functional for the needs of the community. The park organizers also are working to restore Sausal Creek, which runs behind the center.
The recreation center has a burgeoning garden program, which aims to connect underserved youth to the process of growing fresh fruits and vegetable. The need for this is especially great in the Fruitvale district of Oakland.
"We can make lots of fruits and vegetables for anyone who wants them, kids and grown-ups," Zeanna Batchelder said.
"And the kids from the summer camps can make salads!" added Sophia Flores.
The Wheel of Fortune episode featuring this event will air in early October.