Union Park, Benton Harbor

A story narrative reflecting on our community’s journey
in envisioning a brighter future

“This has been a three steps forward, two steps back experience.

But we haven’t given up.

There is energy below the surface in this underserved neighborhood. More positive changes are coming, and this park will be the impetus.”

Rosa Skinner

Manager, Corporate Responsibility

Moving forward one step at a time.

2020. Responding to the community.

As the two women stood in the pristine snow at Union Park, they looked out at the freshly painted press box, baseball dugout and concession building. The buildings were predominantly charcoal black and brilliant orange, a nod to the Benton Harbor neighborhood’s deep-seated pride in their public schools’ Tiger sports teams.

But not all the fresh paint on these buildings was the craftsmanship of the hired painters.

Spray-painted graffiti scrawled across the recently refurbished concession building’s doors. Nonplussed by the vandalism, Whirlpool Corporation’s Stefanie Harvey-Vandenberg, manager of global inclusion and diversity, and Rosa Skinner, manager of corporate social responsibility, continued to point to the park’s improvements that were spurred by their team’s participation in the five-year action plan of Whirlpool Corporation’s Racial Equality Pledge. The two women cited the safer fencing, new field lighting, the colorful new playground equipment, the now-level fields of the multi-use diamonds, re-painted basketball courts and the diamond they hoped would host girls’ softball for the first time this summer.

Neither said anything about the senselessly damaged concession building. Vandalism had happened again and again at the park since its restoration started in 2021.

Both women are passionate about seeing the Racial Equality Pledge help bring about those positive changes. When Whirlpool Corporation introduced its Racial Equality Pledge in 2020, it committed to striving for sustainable impact. Rosa and Stefanie confided they have been learning, alongside their teammates, that sustainable impact takes time.

Yet they are adamant that they must continue the journey, one step at a time, to help create the environment where people have a place to dream and belong. There’s more hard work to be done at the park — more understanding to achieve and more steps to be taken to support a shared vision for sustainable change.

Of course, these steps are not possible without passion, resilience and tenacity. The team hopes sharing their insights on this experience will inspire others to work toward equality and fairness for Black colleagues and neighbors in their own community — no matter how many steps it takes.

Five-Year U.S. Action Plan: Equality and Fairness for Black Colleagues

Whirlpool Corporation’s commitment to this Pledge is crystal clear: We will have a zero tolerance policy for racial marginalization within the company, one that we will regularly communicate across the entire organization.

Why Whirlpool Corp.’s Equality Pledge Matters

Inclusion and Diversity is a pillar in our corporation’s values. While our Racial Equality Pledge has a U.S. focus, its roots are in our global values. We hope our employees mirror many of the action steps wherever they represent Whirlpool Corporation in the world.

We recognize racial inequality is a much broader societal issue with a long history. While our actions focus on our corporation’s “four walls” and our local communities, we hope these actions will have a ripple effect on society at large.

We are also well aware of the many efforts to bring about equality and fairness within our company and on a community level. Yet we still are not where we must be.

With this pledge, we commit to drive sustainable positive impact for all our current and future Black colleagues and our local community — which will ultimately help all minorities within our company. The pledge is a five-year journey that began in 2020, with key milestones along the way to assure we are making progress and, if not, make the needed adjustments to do so.

For this type of pledge to be effective in bringing about meaningful change, the accountability
begins in our executive leaders and extends to each of us. Please join us to achieve equality and fairness so we can sustain improving life for all who call this home.

Click to read the Equality Pledge

Lesson #1

Lean in to find sustainable solutions in our communities and build an allyship.

Whirlpool employees and Commissioner Sharon Henderson at Day of Impact in Union Park, Benton Harbor

A Multilayered Relationship

The relationship between Whirlpool Corporation and our Black colleagues within our company and within our communities, especially those who live in Benton Harbor, is something we care deeply about. There is no sense in sugar-coating this conversation. Racial inequalities and unfairness exist within our communities. Equality and fairness are complex and multilayered issues, shaped by historical events, privilege and oppression, generational and cultural misunderstandings and grudges, and successes and failures in improving life for each of us. But neither side can deny the delicate relationship that currently exists between us all. We must become allies, not adversaries, not victims, not oppressors, not apathetic, not hopeless.

We take ownership in Whirlpool Corporation choosing to be a leader in acknowledging our challenges and bringing about a much-needed allyship with our Black colleagues by asking each of our employees to take steps to live out the Racial Equality Pledge. We need to be woven tighter to bring about the changes that will make our company, communities, country and world better places to work and call home.

But to build a tighter, more equitable and fair bond, we also need to build our understanding. We encourage you to learn more about the history of this region and to read the insights of our employees and community members in this longform narrative. The Union Park journey is a lesson in how building understanding can make a positive impact.

Going Deeper

In the 1920s, the Great Migration brought workers and families from the U.S. southern states to Benton Harbor. These were boom years for companies like Whirlpool Corporation and brought good-paying jobs. It was assumed that those who worked in the area could live comfortably, send their children to good schools, buy cars and save to purchase homes. The news spread over the next few decades and more southerners migrated north to Southwest Michigan.

In the 1960s, it grew harder to sustain prosperity in Benton Harbor. Many of the city’s businesses and incoming industries moved to nearby communities. Benton Harbor’s economic deterioration and poverty level escalated until the late 1980s.

In 1986, Whirlpool Corporation made the difficult decision, after much analysis, to begin phasing out its approximately 1,000 manufacturing jobs in the local area to support the company’s long-term viability in a globally competitive environment. Whirlpool Corporation still continues to employ approximately 4,000 people in the area.

Employees, especially in the hard-hit Black community of Benton Harbor, were devastated with this news and criticism ensued. Counter blame and claims of ineptitudes of Benton Harbor city officials and education systems came from neighboring communities. Already delicate relationships frayed.

However, despite the challenges, the community and Whirlpool Corporation came together time-and-time again over the years to address issues head-on including the economy, education system, housing and infrastructure needs of Benton Harbor. Deeply committed to the community of its global headquarters, Whirlpool Corporation has continued to donate financial resources and engage its employees in decades of problem-solving initiatives. These efforts continue in partnership with the community to help deepen understanding and create positive and lasting impact in Benton Harbor.


The Journey Timeline

Union Park Impact

JUNE 2020

Equality and fairness in our community

Whirlpool Corporation introduced its Racial Equality Pledge. 16 work stream teams formed action plans, including:

  • Observe Juneteenth as a “community impact day” for all U.S. employees


Present Juneteenth plans to the community

The Juneteenth Team formulated plans for a Benton Harbor Juneteenth Day of Impact. They presented their plans at an online community forum on January 19, held by Lake Michigan College during a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. week-long event.

  • During the forum, community members opposed holding Whirlpool Corporation’s community impact day on Juneteenth as they were concerned about taking away from the community’s planned Juneteenth events and how the holiday is commemorated.
  • Additional opposition by community members were also shared outside of the forum.


Listen, then change direction 

The Juneteenth Team took a small, but course-changing action step.

  • The Team met with Benton Harbor City officials as well as the Whirlpool FOCUS Employee Resource Group.
  • They listened to what community representatives really wanted for the community impact day.
  • City officials asked for support of Benton Harbor’s City Parks Master Plan.

MARCH 2021

Tour city parks

The Juneteenth Team drove to each of the city parks to assess their needs.

  • With official City input, the team targeted three neighborhood parks: Union Park, Hall Park and Morton Park.
  • Together with city officials, they selected Union Park for improvement work.
  • Plans began for improvement work at Union Park to take place with Whirlpool employee volunteers and city officials for  a two day event, “Days of Impact”, August 20 & 21.

APRIL 2021

Give neighbors a voice

The Juneteenth Team audited Union Park’s needs with a walk-through, conversing with eight community members for advice. Desiring more input from the community, the team, with support from city commissioners, held a charette at Union Park.

  • 20 residents attended.
  • A heated exchange ensued between neighbors and the city commissioners.
  • Neighbors questioned using resources to improve the park instead of other pressing City needs.
  • Youth riding off-road-vehicles antagonized attendees.
  • Local media arrived to cover the story after an anonymous tip, adding further tension.
  • Charette leaders mediated the heated exchange and talked with antagonizing youth to build understanding of the project.
  • Neighbors then shared their park improvement ideas.

JULY 2021

Encounter bumps in the road

Residents hosted Fourth of July gatherings at the park. Trash was left everywhere.

  • Park maintenance concerns were addressed with city officials.
  • Brainstormed maintenance solutions with city officials.
  • Discussed funding a resident’s and city officials’ request for security cameras.
  • Addressed the need for Benton Harbor Public Safety to patrol the park more often.
  • Canceled the “Days of Impact” volunteer event due to concerns over the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Berrien County.
  • The Juneteenth Team switched to using funds to carry out the proposed improvements.


Reconnect with the community

Juneteenth Team members requested the City to post signs announcing the closure of Union Park for improvements.

  • Though originally planned, signs were not posted before vendor prep work began.
  • An angry neighbor stopped a vendor from spraying weeds.
  • Juneteenth Team members talked with city officials about informing neighbors of Union Park improvement work.
  • Juneteenth Team members attended public Commission meetings to inform the community about the plans for the Park, the progress and to address any critical comments.
  • Overall, community sentiment was positive for Park improvements.
  • The Juneteenth Team requested updates to the City Parks Master Plan and the Parks and Recreation Department’s programming to plan next action steps.


Refusal to be disheartened

Improvements to the Park were well-underway when the next string of vandalism occurred.

  • The team met with Benton Harbor City officials as well as the Whirlpool FOCUS African-American Employee Resource Group.
  • They listened to what community representatives really wanted for the community impact day.
  • City officials asked for support of Benton Harbor’s City Parks Master Plan.


Work stalls again and again

As vendors tried to complete the work, delays occurred as their efforts were blocked when residents refused to accept that the Park was temporarily closed.

• Vandals damaged the concession area. They scrawled graffiti on the sidewalks and building doors and ruined the new trash bins. Then they vandalized the new basketball rims, nets and backboards.
• Residents followed and harassed vendors as they attempted to wrap up their work.
• The Juneteenth Team reached out to the city officials about the new vandalism.
• Together, they did a walk-around to see the Park’s improvements and how it had been damaged.
• A neighborhood man cursed the team during the walk-around. Said the investment was a waste of money and it should have been used to address other needs in the community.
• The Juneteenth Team and city officials discussed how to further engage Public Safety for their help in ensuring the safety of vendors, the team and others.


Give neighbors a voice

Vandals once again struck at the Park, this time damaging the pavilion and the refurbished concession building

  • Juneteenth Team members met with city officials, Public Safety and the Parks & Recreation Department to talk about the newest vandalism.
  • Public Safety and city officials discussed wider area security concerns and the need for surveillance cameras in the larger community area. They requested help for funding a wider area camera surveillance system. Whirlpool Corporation agreed to help with the costs.
  • The Juneteenth Team committed to continuing its pledge to bring equality and fairness to the community by making additional improvements to Union Park.

Lesson #2

Approach work and community relationships with a servant’s heart. Find out what your Black colleagues value. The Benton Harbor community values athletics, so find how to make their opportunities to play sports equitable and fair.

Stefanie Harvey-Vandenberg

Manager of Global Inclusion & Diversity, Whirlpool Corporation

Stephannie Harvey-Vandenberg and Mayor Marcus Muhammad talking in Union Park

I am a native of Benton Harbor and a Black colleague. My parents were servant leaders in the Benton Harbor community, and they role modeled for me the value and importance of servant leadership.

Lesson #3

Immerse in the community you are serving. Get out of your comfort zone. Join community groups where you can learn firsthand what trauma exists where you are striving to create more equity and fairness. It will help you understand why teens vandalize your hard work, why neighbors curse and get angry. It makes it easier to keep fighting for them, not with them.

Rosa Skinner

Manager of Corporate Responsibility, Whirlpool Corporation

Rosa Skinner talking to volunteers on Day of Impact in Union Park, Benton Harbor

Why did you volunteer to serve on the team?

My parents were Colombian immigrants who didn’t finish elementary school, but that didn’t mean they were uneducated or stupid. Life forced them to be smart, innovative, resilient and very resourceful. We lived in small, shared urban spaces in New York City until my parents found a small apartment, and then finally their hard work paid off to enjoy a new home in the suburbs.

I have always had a soft spot for the underdogs of the world and those who struggle to get by. This traces all the way back to my first experience on a school bus. I was so nervous and anxious about going to my first day of kindergarten. I was a painfully shy and naive little girl who barely even spoke English. I fought my way quickly through the chaos of kids to an empty seat in the back of the bus — thinking it would be the safest place. After the bus had made a few stops, I was approached and grabbed by three to four fifth-grade boys who held down my arms and legs while they took their turns kissing me on the mouth. I was screaming for help, but the driver and other students ignored my screams.

I think that event set my resolve that not only would I stand up for myself, but that I would BE that person that would jump in to help others no matter the consequences. I would never stand by while something bad is happening to someone. This was just one of the reasons why Whirlpool Corporation’s Racial Equality Pledge resonated with me and I volunteered.

What emboldens your commitment to Union Park?

My work on the Racial Equality Pledge, my volunteering for organizations and my church ministry in Benton Harbor have prompted me to research the root causes of the problems that are affecting people but in particular, people in Benton Harbor. So many times I have tried to help and then failed and tried again, but it always feels like it’s three steps forward two steps back.

You can’t fight an enemy if you don’t know who or what it is. I believe what we are facing in Benton Harbor are Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adverse Community Experiences (ACEs). These are traumatic events that occur in childhood and our community. Adverse Childhood Experiences can include violence, abuse and growing up in a family with mental health challenges or substance use problems. Adverse Community Experiences can include social injustice, violence, poor housing quality and affordability, lack of opportunity, discrimination and poverty.

Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body and communities respond to stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness and substance misuse in adulthood. I have been taking classes and studying to be a trauma-informed ACEs advocate in our communities. In my opinion, this is at the root of the problems we see in our Union Park neighborhood and throughout our community.

Thankfully, it’s not all grim news. The effects of trauma can be reduced and even reversed by simply loving others. Listening, caring and support from individuals and organizations that foster safe places where kids can be kids will bring positive changes over time. Intentional intervention from community resources such as our Juneteenth Team’s collaboration with city officials and residents around Union Park is a positive start. It is a slow process though, but one that can have a long-lasting impact when addressed.


Lesson #4

It’s always fun to look at a landscape and see it as a canvas for your ideas. But we learned to stop and take time to get to know the land, the neighborhood, and the memories the community has of this space. Then we stepped back and listened to the people who will use it — even children need to have their wishes heard.

Whirlpool Design Team

Why did you volunteer to serve on the team?

The Union Park team wanted to make a demonstrable difference in the park and the neighborhood.

On the walk-around at the park, Stefanie and the city officials shared the happy memories they had made there. They talked about baseball games under the lights, family reunions and neighborhood picnics. We wanted to help create new memories at the park.

So, our team of 15 volunteer designers focused on a baseball theme. The diamonds and fields were not up to par. You could not play sanctioned games on them. Our plans included leveling and seeding the fields, restoring the bean clay, fixing the fencing and putting up lights so teams could continue playing after sunset. We also included painting the press box and dugouts in Benton Harbor Tigers’ black and orange team colors. We replaced the crushed limestone pathways to the dugouts, repaired the dugout ceiling and added lights and heaters. We ensured that the press box got a new door and equipped the inside with GLADIATOR shelving and Whirlpool appliances, plus made other updates. We also made sure the scoreboard and PA were serviced so they would be ready when the first pitch is thrown in 2022.

Additionally, we specified repainting the basketball courts, adding new rims, nets and backboards, removing any graffiti and bringing the existing playground equipment up to safety codes, including putting down rubber mulch. The plans also called for removing unsightly and unsafe brush and trash, and we made suggestions for beautifying the landscape.

Because of the Team’s, City’s and vendors’ collaboration, we were able to get the improvements done in 2021. We’re proud to be part of that teamwork and their work to carry out The Pledge.

What gave you the greatest satisfaction working on this project?

There are many when you work on something that gives a neighborhood a safe and beautiful gathering space. But the design team really enjoyed having the children in the neighborhood choose the new playground structure before we added it to the park’s final design. That part of the park became their design, not ours.

Lesson #5

Giving people from the community a voice fosters not only deeper understanding, but equality and fairness.
We learned we must listen. It’s not an improvement if it’s what we think is best for the community without their input.

Eleanor Reece

Juneteenth Workstream Lead and Vice President of Global Communications, Whirlpool Corporation

Reflections and next steps

One of the most important things our Juneteenth Team learned was to listen with an open heart and with an open mind.

Too often, we assess needs from our own perspective, and we run to find solutions to check off the task box in order to move on to the next.

This initiative taught us that we needed to truly lean in to find sustainable solutions. We had to take the time to peel back the layers to understand why the need existed, as well as why some people would push back on well-intended efforts for positive community impact.

By working in partnership with the City, we learned some of the reasons why. Once we understood some of the reasons, we felt emboldened to keep going forward — to not lose heart.

What the Racial Equality Pledge challenges us to do now and into the future

As a team, we learned from our experience that there are very few quick solutions to carry out sustainable impact. In this work, there really may be three steps forward, two steps back to drive meaningful change.

We have learned that it is upon each of us to continue to build meaningful relationships with our neighbors in Benton Harbor. We can each do our part to deepen our own understanding of each other.

We can all listen and work together to meet the needs that will bring equality and fairness to our workplace and communities. It’s a need we all share and it’s inspired by our hope for a better future together.


Eleanor Reece, Whirlpool Corp. on Day of Impact in Union Park, standing

Community Insights

City Manager Mitchell first came to Benton Harbor between 1983-1987, worked in municipal leadership positions in various parts of the country, then returned in 2017. He became city manager in 2019. Ellis explains that the decision to renovate Union Park with Whirlpool Corporation’s help was based on the park’s history, its location in a city neighborhood and its visibility.

How will the City protect the investment in Union Park?

Our number one priority is to get sports leagues back in the City and to get kids and young adults playing. It will build pride in our parks and overcome the problems we have had in the past because some kids don’t care; they have no remorse when they vandalize our parks.

We also must make our sports programs sustainable, find ways to create revenue, get trained staff and be able to fund a Parks and Recreation Department again. We plan to reach out to other companies to join Whirlpool and the City to bring about more improvements in our other parks. Together, we can do so much more.

We can’t thank Whirlpool Corporation enough for what they have helped the City accomplish at Union Park. There is a culture change from the top down at Whirlpool Corporation. Their approach is more compassionate, more of a partner, an ally with us as a community. They didn’t tell us what to do; they joined us and asked how they could help. We share a common belief that good quality parks can help us change our quality of life.

Ellis Mitchell

City Manager, Benton Harbor

Sharon Henderson

1st Ward Commissioner, Benton Harbor

Commissioner Henderson was first elected by voters in Ward 1 in November 2012. As a commissioner, she helps set policies and the vision for the City of Benton Harbor. She recognizes that parks are vital to the health and wellbeing of residents, but there are not enough tax dollars to fund improvements. Sharon said that while parks are important, her constituents and other inner-city residents have much bigger, more immediate needs.

I am grateful that I worked for other cities. I have a broader perspective on how parks can play a major role in a city’s turnaround. Some of our residents don’t see the value of what we are doing with Whirlpool to improve our parks. They don’t remember our parks in their heyday. Good, safe parks bring businesses and people into a community. They provide a space for music, festivals and to get to know each other — a reason to live here, visit here, return here.

Alex Little

Assistant City Manager, Benton Harbor

Assistant Manager Little was born and raised in a small town in Illinois. He first came to Benton Harbor in 1984 and began working for the city in various capacities, including city manager. Alex then spent more than a decade serving in municipalities around the country, returning to the city he always felt was home in 2015. He became assistant city manager in July 2021.

What are some challenges Benton Harbor City leaders face in bringing about changes?

Benton Harbor is a very transitory community. A large percentage of our residents are kids from singleparent homes, the elderly and the disabled. Many are renters who don’t stay more than a year. Improving our parks will help us attract companies, job opportunities and families that will put down roots here. We need to change our culture and our attitude about living in Benton Harbor.

We have had some outstanding athletes come from Benton Harbor, men and women who got their start playing sports at Union Park. Pro-athletes like Wilson Chandler grew up by Union Park; he knows its value. We need to give our kids today equal opportunities to play sports, to learn sportsmanship and how to get along. Funding for any of the parks or other improvements we need in our city is our biggest roadblock to our leaders’ vision. And contrary to what some people think, we DO have a vision.

I want our community to know and share our gratitude to Whirlpool Corporation. They listened to our park dream and our dream became their dream, too. Union Park’s renovation is a beautiful and special gift — as a City, we need to use it, be proud of it and take care of it.

Our parks are valuable to our residents in more ways than providing outdoor spaces to celebrate special occasions. Many of our families live in multi-family housing. Their kids can’t go outside and play on backyard swings or shoot hoops in their driveways. Our inner-city kids and adults need parks where they can release their energy, run, play ball, swing and climb, shout and laugh without someone always shushing them.

Tamiko Brock

Parks Coordinator, Benton Harbor

Parks Coordinator Brock was born and raised in Benton Harbor and is a graduate of Benton Harbor Public Schools. She has worked nine years for the City, the first seven as coordinator for Jean Klock Park and the most recent two, overseeing scheduling events at all 18 city parks.

How are you helping the City to bring people back to Union Park?

I am very excited about the renovations at Union Park. While we want to host basketball games and yoga classes at the park, our main focus is reviving baseball and softball games and tournaments. We are recruiting coaches by placing flyers in businesses, schools and churches. Once we have baseball coaches, we will recruit elementary students through young adults to play on their teams. This will be a year-after-year commitment.

The Whirlpool team is to make sure Union Park is ready for Opening Day. We are so grateful for the park improvements Whirlpool has done so far, but I want to encourage their employees to step forward to coach, to help out on the Days of Impact and to join us on Opening Day and throughout the baseball season to cheer on our teams.

Also, I invite Whirlpool employees to bring their families to our other parks, too. Your kids will have fun playing with the neighborhood kids on the Franks Park playground at 130 E. Britain. Launch your boat or take a picnic to Riverview Park, go to Jean Klock Park’s beach or visit Hall Park at 440 Highland and see why we hope it will receive the next big renovations. These aren’t just our residents’ parks, they are for everyone to enjoy.


Duane Seats

Mayor Pro Tem, Benton Harbor

Mayor Pro Tem Seats is a native of Benton Harbor, leaving only to serve in the Marine Corps before returning to serve his hometown and join others with his passion to make it better. His constituents throughout the city first elected him as a commissioner at-large in 2009 and in 2016, Mayor Marcus Muhammad chose him to serve as mayor pro tem. If the mayor is absent, the mayor pro tem has the same powers and duties as the mayor.

Coach John Jewell

Head Softball Coach, Berrien Springs High School

Coach John is a native of Benton Harbor, a proud Tiger and a graduate of Benton Harbor High School. He has a long history as a player and coach for various teams throughout Southwest Michigan. His love for baseball and softball started at Union Park.

“What really shaped my life were all of my coaches and one of my best mentors, Lou Harvey. I learned how to live my life from them, and how to be a dad and a coach to my players. Kids need that in their lives. That’s why I hope, with Whirlpool employees’ continued involvement, they can get Benton Harbor kids back on those fields. Union Park gave some great athletes their start and we need to give today’s kids an equal opportunity to reach their potential. If it takes going door to door in the neighborhoods or talking to kids in their schools — let’s get boys and girls and their families back to Union Park playing ball. It will change their lives for the better as it did mine.”

Commissioner Henry is a native of Benton Harbor. She attended Benton Harbor Public Schools and Lake Michigan College. For 28 years, she lived away from the City but returned to make things right in Benton Harbor. She and her colleagues, mostly women, saw how the government was functioning and it wasn’t to their standards. She ran for the 3rd Ward commissioner seat, the ward that houses Union Park, and won the election in 2006. She is serving her fourth term.

One of her first childhood memories of Union Park was riding bikes with her friends to play in the wading pool. When they entered the pool, parents pulled their children out of the water and left the park. Within two years, the City filled in the pool.

What would you say to the Whirlpool employees making the Racial Equality Pledge?

I’d say, if you are really interested in this community, then look at the structural racism that exists here and find how to reverse it. You get rid of structural racism and you will eradicate poverty and all the other issues poor people living here have. Do it here on a small city scale and you can make a bigger impact elsewhere.

Understand, if you’re a white, European-American, you aren’t seeing through the same lenses minorities are seeing through. I’d say to every Whirlpool employee taking that Pledge, follow what we grew up hearing, ‘Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.’ I mean, really treat them at work and in this community, the way you expect to be treated.

What would you say to your constituents about Whirlpool Corporation’s outreach to improve Union Park and life in their neighborhoods?

I’d say, take ownership of everything that is happening here. Get involved in the conversation. Know that you’re being listened to, but you got to speak to be heard. Then you have to follow up to make sure you’re satisfied with what happens.

We had an incident here at the park when a vendor was spraying chemicals on the grass. I stopped my car and asked what he was doing. He said he was killing weeds. When he left, there was nothing to keep kids off that grass until the next day as park signs informing our neighborhood about the work were not put up yet. I stayed on it and worked with our city officials to make sure neighbors kept an eye on the area and the kids stayed off of the grass. It’s up to all of us to work together for our community.

I am willing to die if it means we can make things better for African Americans and the human race.

Juanita Henry

3rd Ward Commissioner, Benton Harbor

Continuing Forward

What we learned

Going Forward
Two female Benton Harbor students pose on Community Day of Impact with smiles and peace signs

Whirlpool Corporation’s Day of Impact – Volunteering in our community in commemoration of Juneteenth

On May 12, 2022, one hundred Whirlpool Corporation employee volunteers teamed up with the City of Benton Harbor and a dozen children from a local area school for a “Day of Impact” to complete the revitalization of Union Park. The park enhancements, which began in the fall of 2021, were made possible through a contribution of approximately $500,000 from the company.

Enhancements included new lights and dugouts, expanded and improved baseball fields and basketball courts, a new softball field, and new playground equipment.

The team was excited to complete the work just in time for Benton Harbor’s little league season opener. After the work was completed, employee volunteers shared some of their reflections and overall pride in helping make an impact in their community and their enthusiasm for their journey in understanding to continue.

“I thought doing community service was about doing too much work or uninteresting. After working with Whirlpool, I now have a new mindset about community service.”


Employee reflections

It was wonderful working alongside the kids.

Representation by community officials and Whirlpool leaders was extremely meaningful because employees not only felt encouraged to participate but felt the leaders led by example when they worked hard alongside employees.

It was encouraging that the community residents stopped by and thanked employees for working on their park.

The work felt purposeful and it felt good to work in-person on a project for team-building.

There was a lot of pride in the large investment from Whirlpool Corporation to support a meaningful project in the community and support the Equality Pledge as employees long for equity for all.

There was a new connection to the teens, and employees were extremely happy to see the transformation from the time the stuents arrived to when they left. They saw how the kids went from not understanding why people volunteered to being excited to volunteer.