News Gleam: Rainier Beach’s Detective Cookie Chess Park Receives $10,000 Donation

by Emerald Staff

Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance announced Wednesday that Merrill & Merrill Insurance has earned a 2020 Make More Happen Award. The honor recognizes the Rainier Beach business for its volunteer work with the Seattle Parks Foundation (SPF) and helping to improve the local community. The award includes a $10,000 donation that will directly benefit SPF, a nonprofit with the mission of providing a place for Seattle residents to feel connected in safe and beautiful green spaces while having easy access to recreational opportunities that meet their needs.

Dave Merrill, owner of Merrill & Merrill Insurance and longtime member of the Seattle Rainier Lions Club, first heard about Seattle Parks Foundation six years ago during a presentation led by Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin. She was discussing her pop-up chess club at local parks where she teaches South Seattle youth about the game. Detective Bouldin uses chess to not only entertain the kids but also as a metaphor teaching that in life, it’s most often best to make the smartest move, not the quickest. In honor of Detective Bouldin, the park received a permanent space two years ago in the heart of Rainier Beach right next to The Barton Place, a low-income senior living apartment building, where youth and seniors now meet to play.

Throughout the years, Merrill and his team have helped Detective Bouldin plan and set up the pop-up Chess Park events, have attend monthly committee meetings, and provided tables with chess boards for the players to play.

Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin (right) speaks with a a young Rainier Beach resident at an event held at her eponymously named chess park in Rainier Beach last spring. (Photo: Mariah Kulkin)

The $10,000 Make More Happen Award will be used to build built-in chess tables and an overhead canopy for Detective Cookie Chess Park. The park is envisioned as an intergenerational, multicultural community space where neighbors can learn and play chess outdoors. Merrill hopes it will be a gathering space for one of Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods to build community and get free access to a game that imparts important life lessons.

“This chess club has positively impacted our Seattle community in so many ways. Seeing the kids and seniors learn the game while developing meaningful relationships is very rewarding,” said Merrill. “Because we feel so personally committed to the Seattle Parks Foundation, we are truly grateful to Liberty Mutual and Safeco for the Make More Happen Award because it is an incredible opportunity for our community to work together to provide Seattle Parks Foundation with much-needed funds to support their important work.”