CARROLL GARDENS — To Kathleen Henderson, who tends to Carroll Park for the Parks Department, the biggest accomplishment of her career is making a difference in children’s lives.
Not bad for someone who describes her job as “I play with the kids all day.”
On a typical afternoon, Henderson, who has worked at the park for 16 years, can be seen there doing arts and crafts with the children or orgainzing a game of basketball.
“My favorite part about the park is all the kids,” said Henderson. “I’ve gotten to see them when they were just a twinkle in their mom and dad’s eyes to full-grown adults finishing college.”
Henderson noted that the park has changed over the years. For instance, she said, when she first started working at Carroll Park, the average age of the children who played there was 7 or 8. Now, the average is 2 or 3, Henderson said.
“There are a lot more kids there now than when I started working there,” Henderson said.
Many of the children still visit her even after they’ve grown out of their playground, Henderson said. They keep her updated on how their lives are going.
In one case, Henderson said she bumped into one of her regular children, now an adult, on the subway, and hardly recognized her because she had grown so much. The woman approached her and showed her a keychain that she had made with Henderson, and that she had kept on her keychain even as a college graduate.
“She told me that she carried it because whenever she looks at it, it reminded her of how much I had done for her,” said Henderson, her voice wavering as she told the story. “I didn’t realize I had impacted her that much.”
"It's hard to overstate just how loved and appreciated Kathleen is by the Carroll Gardens community," Squadron said in a statement. "Kathleen's ability to make all feel welcome has helped turn Carroll Park into the heart of our community."
Friends of Carroll Park, a community organization dedicated to improving the park, said that Henderson went above and beyond the call of duty tending to the needs of the park and its neighbors.
“We at the Carroll Park Kids Concert Series rely on Kathleen for helping to spread the word about the concert series and for coming in on her days off to help with the concerts,” said Lynn Melnick, a volunteer at Friends of Carroll Park. “We are extremely grateful for the work she does for our park.”