Equity in Essential Services

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Learn how park and recreation professionals support the needs of the most vulnerable by providing essential services within their communities. Across the nation, park and recreation professional support the needs of the most vulnerable by meeting them where they are to address challenges to homelessness, food insecurity and stigma. Now, that same innovation and strength is being used to address challenges specific to the global COVID-19 pandemic on a local level, demonstrating to all how essential the field of parks and recreation is. 


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Allison Colman

Director of Health, National Recreation and Park Association

Allison Colman is the Director of Health for the National Recreation and Park Association on the Health and Wellness team.  Allison joined NRPA in 2015 and oversees the out-of-school time portfolio, including NRPA’s Commit to Health campaign and efforts to reduce childhood hunger through the USDA Child Nutrition programs. Allison also manages NRPA Parks for Inclusion initiative. Prior to joining NRPA, Allison worked in the recreation field facilitating health and wellness programs across all populations.  Combined with her work in other non-profits and organizations, Allison has extensive experience in public health and wellness program management and preventative health initiatives.   

Roderick Simmons, MPA, CPRP

Director, Asheville Parks and Recreation

Roderick Simmons is the Director of Asheville Parks and Recreation & Cultural Arts Department in Asheville, NC. 

Asheville Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department was the First Nationally Accredited Municipal Parks & Recreation Department and a NRPA Gold Medal Award Winner (2002).

The department maintains 54 public parks, 6 miles of greenways, 11 community centers, numerous programs for youth, seniors and outdoor enthusiasts, a comprehensive athletics program, and many facilities that provide resources for a range of activities.  

He also oversees the management of specialized facilities such as the Western North Carolina Nature Center, Aston Park Tennis Center, Memorial Stadium, and McCormick Field Minor League Baseball Stadium. Previously, he served as Parks and Recreation Director for Sampson County Local Government in Sampson County, NC. 

He has also worked as an Athletic Program Supervisor for the City of Fayetteville, NC and was a Recreation Center Director for the City of High Point, NC.  

Roderick holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation management, as well as a master’s degree in public administration.  

April Thedford

Business Process Consultant, Austin Parks & Recreation Department

With a background in public policy, April has worked at both the state and municipal level on various social welfare issues. In her current role with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, her focus is on special projects related to people experiencing homelessness and public/private/non-profit partnerships.

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