Another Homerun for the Park
It took a lot of generosity to make a success of Yaling Pan’s idea to use food as the magnet keeping customers in Lexington Park after the workday ends.
Barbara Saylor, vice president of the California branch of PNC Bank, was the indisputable manager, more like magician, coordinating the undertaking from start through health department certification and to a successful finish. She absolutely made it happen.
But for the real generosity, Ms. Saylor can move you close to tears expressing her amazement at the willingness of the owners of 11 small restaurant who donated the food and the time to prepare and serve it to an anticipated 300 to 500 people.
Let’s say that again.
Eleven restaurant owners gave away freshly prepared food to hundreds and hundreds of people hanging out all evening in the core of Lexington Park. As often as not the owners themselves served the food, including Ms. Pan’s business partner in their Mixing Bowl restaurant. Of the 11 restaurants who particpated, 100 percent are owned by the people who operate them.
The evening was an unqualified success. A huge success. Freedom Park looked and functioned as the small urban park it was envisioned to become. As the evening advanced two veteran community developers expressed a degree of awe I’ve not seen in more than two decades writing about efforts to revitalize Lexington Park.
Robin Finnacom is the CEO and President of the Community Development Corporation, which means she has spent two decades, oftentimes standing alone, fighting for Lexington Park improvements and investment. She brought historical perspective to the job. Her father ran the Montgomery Wards store on Great Mills Road when Great Mills Road was Main Street, Lexington Park and Route 235 a two-lane byway cut through farmland.
“It’s our third home run,” Ms. Finnacom gushed as the park grew crowded within the first hour. She spoke on behalf of the Lexington Park Business and Community Association and will not appreciate the verb “gushed.” But she did and she deserved to.
The association launched a successful branding campaign the summer of 2011, soliciting sponsorships for what turned into hundreds of Lexington Park commemorative banners hanging from SMECO poles along every major commercial road serving the Naval Air Station Patuxent River economic hub.
Then, in May, the association held a parade. It was the first parade in Lexington Park in decades concluded long-time residents. The last remembered was a Great Mills High School Homecoming Parade guessed to have been in the 1980s.
The parade commemorated completion of the long-anticipated re-channeling and beautification of the upper section of Great Mills Road. Again, credit to Ms. Finnacom. While the parade indeed hit another home run for the community, it would be hard to put a baseball metaphor on the project as a whole. “Survivor: Lexington Park” would better fit.
The second expression of wonderment came from Tom Watts, involved and invested in the improvement and beautification of Lexington Park since the 1960s. He served years on the Community Development Corporation and continues to invest in re-purposing older properties in Lexington Park.
“It’s a complete mix of people,” he marveled.
If Ms. Finnacom can be said to “gush” with her deserved enthusiasm at Lexington Park’s recent winning streak, Mr. Watts can be said to “smile wryly” at evident success. Instead he repeated himself and grinned. “Look,” he said, “a complete mix of people.” He was tasting a soup and putting the spoon down in the bowl he gestured across the park. “Look,” he said again. “Everyone.”
Ethnicity, age, wealth, every aspect represented, blending together in Freedom Park, at twilight, everyone having a really nice time.
That’s even better than a third home run. That’s a grand slam.