It was ever thus: finding the perfect volunteer for the job can be a challenge. To find those seemingly selfless folks who are in there for the long haul. Who, like the Conservancy itself, work and play well with others. It was ALSO ever thus: the Conservancy has, for its long life, been fortunate to attract precisely those neighbors who “get it”. And those who sign on. One of those exemplary souls is Lisa Latcholia (pronounced la-CHO-lah), Chair of the Conservancy’s Playground Committee, Board Secretary and Executive Committee Member.
We settled in over coffee at the York Social coffee bar to talk about the many joys, and the odd woe, of dedicating one’s time, energy and enthusiasm to the Conservancy’s mission. And what she gets out of it. We asked Lisa how the Conservancy “latched” on to her. “Amy Kuhn, (the former Chair) was easing out of the playground. Her child was almost eight years old. So, another mom and I met with the older group who saw new blood…
“And said YAY! And they ran!!” laughed Lisa.
They handed the committee’s big, historical and operational binder to her, including years-old mimeographed pages and told her to have at it. This was about twelve years ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time for Lisa, then a mother of two very young children. The Conservancy was growing dramatically and there was a need to plan and organize the year’s events so they could be mapped out on the Conservancy calendar.
Plus… and this was a BIG plus for Lisa… she got out of the house:
“I get bored! I’m a Type A personality. When I quit work I wanted to be out with people. I’m an extrovert. I find people interesting!! And I like building community with people. Helping make New York City like a small town. I love it… I don’t know what I’d do if it weren’t for the Park…”
“Kid Stuff: Coffee with
CSPC Playground Chair,
Lisa was able to corral her native organizational skills, honed from her years in advertising media buying. And during these formative years for event programming in the Park she, along with her fellow committee volunteers, was able to invent and build on what had been in place.
“(The former committee) did the hayride. And they’d have random stuff. Then ‘the moms said it’d be fun to do an egg-hunt.
“The first egg-hunt we did (with 500 plastic eggs hand-stuffed with treats) twenty people showed up. Then, about 2003 these things started taking off..”
Those 500 eggs are now 30,000!
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that Lisa was able to take what she developed and learned as a volunteer with the Conservancy to another level. A personal level.
She was asked about the business she started, inspired by the events she and her team built from the ground up in the Park.
“My friend (Lee Uehara) and I created a business called LISA & LEE’S THINK ’N FUN (ThinkNFunNYC.com). We do pre-soccer and Tot Fun Runs, bike riding lessons. Things like that. And we do private egg hunts and Halloween parties.
“I met (Lee)… she volunteered for me during the egg hunt. She is crazy like me, organizing things. That’s the thing! You meet all these interesting people.”
Does Lisa herself need “new blood” on her committee?
“Yes! People can just come in and do whatever they want. But you have to work with Parks. People think that we at the Conservancy can do whatever we want. But no… you have to arrange for permits. Things like that.”
“Just come on out. You get to meet other moms. It’s very lonely sometimes when you have little kids. You get to meet other people in a space that’s common o everyone. My kids used to consider the Park their backyard.”
We talked about what’s different about “city park play”.
“My kids are so used to parks. My nephew and nieces are from the suburbs and they’re not used to the give and take of an NYC playground. Everybody touches every toy in New York City!"