WARREN - Warren resident Rhonda Bennett says she and her family have always been involved in their community.
It was that dedication that led to her being named a 2013 Community Star.
Bennett, 52, who has served as president of the Southwest Neighborhood Association for three years, was among those who worked to reopen Southwest Park off Palmyra Road.
''Being a resident here in Warren, Southwest Park was an integral part of my youth and early adulthood. We used to play softball there and used it as a practice field for many, many years,'' she said.
She said it was sad to see the park close since there are so many children in the area who need a safe place to play.
''It behooved me to try and see what we could do to get that park open. I approached Mayor Mike O'Brien telling him how I and others wanted to see Southwest Park opened again,'' Bennett said.
Southwest Neighborhood Association; ACTION of Youngstown; Weed and Seed Board; New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church trustee member; Resident Association Committee; Warren Neighborhood Leadership Committee; Community PTA member and League of Women Voters of Trumbull County
She said her parents, Joseph and Eleanor Williamson of Warren, and friends and neighbors supported her goal.
''My parents are my rock and are 100 percent with me," she said.
Helping here out were youth from the Trumbull Community Action Program, or TCAP, neighborhood groups and a local charter school.
''We had help from so many groups and individuals.The volunteers came out and helped paint and clean. Whatever we needed the city helped us,'' she said.
She said new playground equipment was installed and upgrades were made to the pavilion for picnics and other events.
Bennett said the park has been well used by youth sporting groups and is a place for summer crafts and children's games.
''The opening of the park last summer was awesome, especially for the children and the residents of the community. So many people are able to utilize the park again,'' Bennett said, noting many senior residents of nearby Tod's Crossing can walk to the park and sit at the pavilion.
''This park was necessary and is such an integral part of the community,'' she said.
Warren resident Tina Milner, who nominated Bennett to be a star, said Bennett is an example of ''community service" having worked with the city to obtain a shepherding agreement for South West Memorial Park, worked with TCAP to get a grant to purchase new playground equipment, and collaborated with Warren Weed and Seed to board up abandoned properties, clean up streets and cut the grass at vacant lots.
''Rhonda is a great example of community service in the city,'' she said.
Now in its 12th year, the Community Star program is sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle and Trumbull 100 and celebrates the volunteers who have had a significant influence on Trumbull County.
Bennett said she enjoys doing community service.
''I love the southwest side where I grew up. I and my family don't just sit by and let things fall apart,'' she said.
To that end, Bennett said a neighborhood association and PTA group were formed to help cut down on crime in the city.
''The key today is to get the parents involved to help the children. My goal is to be able to see more and more people able to sit on their porches again and being able to walk late in the evening and be safe,'' Bennett said.
Bennett is also active at New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church where she serves on the church's trustee board.
''My pastor, Dr. Robert Stringer, is very adamant about getting involved in the community, the schools and court system. We are a local church and there is no reason we can't be involved out in the community,'' she said.