Soccer and Philanthropy: An Interview with Tommy Park
by Joy Loving
Tommy Park is the executive director of the Alexandria Soccer Association, one of Community Lodgings’ most interactive partners. Tommy shared what attracted him to Community Lodgings and why he thinks our programs have improved the community.
How long have you run the Alexandria Soccer Association?
This is going to be my seventh year, actually. I was teaching and coaching and had experience in nonprofit management, advanced education, and business. It brought all of the things I like to do together in support of a powerful mission.
How long have you been partnered with Community Lodgings?
We’ve done various levels of partnership for at least 5 years now.
How did the Alexandria Soccer Association and Community Lodgings pair up?
We looked for a community partner that worked with [under-served] populations, and Community Lodgings does exactly that. We started playing at different sites and introduced the game to the kids. A lot of them came from cultures [familiar] with soccer, so it was easy to engage them.
We allocated a lot of financial resources to allow them to play, including uniforms. We have an outreach coordinator who came and ran some clinics and made sure that part of the program was in Spanish to take away some of the barriers to participation.
Why do you think Community Lodgings has operated for 30 years?
There’s a need for what they provide. It is important in an area that has such a wide poverty gap. Our community needs affordable housing. Having supplementary programming for housing in a specific community is a huge asset.
Do you have a favorite story or experience teaching kids’ soccer through Community Lodgings?
When I think of Community Lodgings, I think of that mini field back there where the kids have a safe place to play. It’s nothing fancy, but the kids are always back there really enjoying the game in a really organic way. They have a safe place to live and interact with each other in healthy ways.
Do you have a favorite Community Lodgings staff person and why?
Lynn [Thomas, Executive Director] and I have developed a good connection through our leadership training. She’s super funny and energetic and really has a vision that she takes seriously. I respect her a lot.
Do you see yourself working with Community Lodgings for a long time?
As long as Community Lodgings is serving the community, we don’t see the partnership ending.