[Hpn] Houston, TX - Downtown children get place to play - Houston Chronicle - December 07, 2003

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Mon, 8 Dec 2003 12:13:13 -0500

Downtown children get place to play

Ex-NFL star and church team up on project
By MIKE SNYDER - Houston Chronicle - December 07, 2003

Houston, TX - A preacher, a politician and a football star, joined by
scores of their closest friends, joined ranks Sunday to show
off a new park where children from the growing downtown
residential community will soon be playing.

St. John's United Methodist Church, already an important
social force in eastern downtown with a ministry for the
homeless and an early childhood development center, has
developed a small park on its campus that will be open to
children who live downtown as well as to church members.

Funding for the landscaping and playground equipment was
provided by Santana Dotson, who retired this year after a
decade as a defensive tackle in the National Football
League, and his wife, Monique Dotson. The park will be known
as the Dotson Family Park.

Rudy Rasmus, the church's senior pastor, said the park will
fill an important need as the ranks of families living
downtown continue to swell.

"Their children will have a place to play right here in
downtown Houston," Rasmus told a large and enthusiastic
crowd of church members and well-wishers who gathered for a
ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

Rasmus and his wife, Juanita Campbell Rasmus, assumed
leadership of the church in 1992 when flight to the suburbs
had reduced its official membership to nine people. By 1999
the membership had increased to 3,600, and the Rasmuses were
serving more than 6,000 meals a month to the homeless.

Dotson said he joined the church in 1993. A product of Yates
High School, Dotson said he always lived in Houston during
the off-seasons. He spent most of his career with the Green
Bay Packers and set a rookie record in 1992 by registering a
sack in each of his first four games.

"This is a hands-on church," Dotson said, noting that poor
congregants worship every week alongside wealthy ones. "It
makes you very thankful."

Children living downtown need more opportunities for
recreation, Dotson said, and the park will help to fill that

"There's not a lot of parks, not a lot of outdoor
structures," he said.

Councilman Michael Berry said the park and the church's
other social services are a good example of the power of
private initiative.

"We do so much more in our private sector, especially our
churches, than we do in government," Berry said.

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