The management and residents of Eastgate Plaza enjoyed a day of celebration Sunday, coming together for a picnic recognizing major contributions from the Emporia Community Foundation.

ECF Executive Director Becky Jeppesen was on hand to present an over-sized check for $125,000, which covered the recent costs of the living development’s two new playground areas and freshly-paved basketball court.

“We’re especially glad to have Eastgate as part of the Emporia Community Foundation,” Jeppesen said. “We have over 200 funds now at the ECF, and it’s so exciting. I tell people I have the best job in Emporia. Last year, I got to sign checks for over $1.7 million that do really good things in our community. This is one of them.”

“We want this place to be just like it was our own home,” Eastgate Plaza Inc. Board Member Jim Kessler added. “We take a lot of pride in it, and this is a great deal for us. We try to make decisions on what’s going to be best for all of [our tenants]. A few years back, we were able to set up a fund at the Emporia Community Foundation to put reserve money in there to help in the case of emergencies and needed improvements. This playground is one of the greatest improvements we’ve had in a while.”

The new youth-focused additions are the most recent in a long line of improvements to the Plaza over the past few years. About four years ago, new vinyl siding was installed on all buildings, helping give the condos a fresh look and eliminating the need to repaint every few years. Last summer also brought a $290,065.50 grant from ECKAN which allowed for the replacing of all windows and doors around the property to more energy-efficient alternatives, added insulation in attics, the repairing of air leaks in foundation walls and the improvement of on-site water heaters.

Long-time Eastgate Board President Joe Denson — who oversaw the construction of the original project in 1971 — said he was especially glad to be able to provide improvements for tenants, pointing to the transformation and growing camaraderie of the community over the years.

“I want to commend the directors for their involvement in this project, and their willingness to volunteer in all they do for Eastgate.” Denson said. “We have over 100 children who live on the project, and we do things like helping sponsor their trips to Camp Alexander, so this is just another way of putting a place on our grounds for their entertainment. It’s a continuing effort, and we intend to keep upgrading the project so it can be better for all our tenants … It’s kind of been a personal thing of mine because I’ve been involved for so long.”

Site Manager Shelley Wright said it was an honor for her to be able to oversee the growth and continuing renovation of the community, seeing as the area hasn’t always had the most glowing reputation around Emporia over the years. With the recent updates, she now contends the property is one of the nicest living complexes in town.

“It’s been an amazing thing to see,” Wright said. “When I first started, they were just completing the siding job, and since that’s been completed we’ve gotten the two new playgrounds, the basketball court and all of those improvements from the ECKAN grant. It’s been awesome, and we look beautiful. A lot of people used to call us ‘The Projects.’ We’re not the projects anymore, we’re a home.

“I want to give a shoutout to our whole crew, Lisa Northington being our managing agent, and my administrative assistant Carla Davis. Zach Wyatt is our maintenance man who does a phenomenal job. He’s on call 24/7, so he’s got the toughest job here, I think.”

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