At Southwest Airlines, we put our Heart into everything we do. We do this by connecting People to what’s important in their lives, in the air, on the ground, and in the communities where we live, work, and serve.
Since 2013, Southwest Airlines has partnered with Project for Public Spaces to award 25 Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grants across the United States and Mexico. These grants encourage civic participation and community collaboration through the creation of vibrant public spaces that strengthen connections and instill a sense of community pride.
After a year of community workshops, program testing, planning, and design, we were excited to launch our 2017 grant projects in Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Buffalo.
From increasing literacy rates, to allowing free programming, to facilitating a safe space to spend time with friends, each of these spaces reflects the unique goals and ambitions of each city, empowering people to become their best selves and local communities to thrive.
Location: Oklahoma City Launched: August 21 Local Partner: Downtown OKC, Inc.
Oklahoma City is a small town framed in a larger city. To Oklahoma City residents such as Cassi Poor, it is important to her that her community contributes to a lively and thriving city with a culture that attracts and retains young people. The new grant updates to Kerr Park have done just that to contribute to what she proudly calls her community.
“Oklahoma City is known for its selfless and giving residents. Over the years, Kerr Park has provided many things to many different people. With the most recent renovation, I think the park has been restored to give back even more to the community. Kerr Park is an urban oasis that provides a unique opportunity to downtown residents, employees, and visitors.”
“Being located in the central business district, it provides an opportunity for employees to escape from their offices and get some fresh air or soak up the sun. With more and more residents living downtown, there is always a need for greenspace to walk the dog or find a spot to get some light reading or work done. With activities like bocce and ping pong, it’s a great find for visitors staying downtown. Kerr Park provides an opportunity for all, whether it’s work or play.
“What I love the most about Kerr Park is engaging with the variety of people that now visit the park. When I am visiting the park, I tend to ask others if they live or work in the area and I am often surprised that many do not. All the improvements have helped to draw people in from outside of Oklahoma City.”
Location: New Orleans
Launched: September 21 Local Partner: Arts Council New Orleans and the Downtown Development District of New Orleans
In an area where food, jazz, and family come to life, it is important to have a space that reflects those attributes, and that is what the new Duncan Plaza does for park enthusiasts like Hyma More.
“Being a New Orleans local is like being in a super-sized family, and I can feel that anywhere I go in the city. Before the grant updates, the park was closed off and unappealing to those who were not familiar with the area. Now, Duncan Plaza and its dog park is a place where people want to engage and be a part of the community, rather than somewhere you’d avoid. I strongly believe happy spaces promote happy living. I actually feel happier having a safe, green space so close to where I live and work, and now this is a place I bring my dog daily.”
Buffalo Reading Park Location: Buffalo Launched: October 28 Local Partner: Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
In a city that is growing very rapidly, it’s important to have a community that embraces growth, while holding on to the rich history that Buffalo values. Avid Buffalo Reading Park user, Richmond Wills, loves that this space allows the community to interact with one another in a creative manner.
“I intimately understand the huge potential of having such a space with the intention of stimulating people around the literary arts. There continues to be a need for more visibility and participation for the literary arts, and the Buffalo Reading Park fits that need by creating a safe haven for such convenings. From cultivating a warmly textured space for quiet reading, to hosting events ranging from spoken word to featuring favorite Buffalo novelists, the potential list of activities within the Reading Park are practically limitless, and a benefit to the Buffalo community at large.”
No matter the city, the state, or country, these spaces are truly the Heart of the Community in which local residents can learn, connect, grow, and build each other up in a place where they feel comfortable and accepted. Let us know about your experiences in these public spaces by tagging us on social and using #SouthwestHeart.