Friends of Williamston Parks took many steps in 2018 toward its current goal of building a new playground at Volunteers Community Park, a City greenspace located next to The Commons on School Street. With grants from Williamston Kiwanis, Williamston Sunrise Rotary and the Red Oak Foundation in 2017, combined with additional support from the Capital Region Community Foundation and Old Nation Brewing Company/Feel Good Tap in 2018, FOWP has raised the matching funds necessary for the DNR Recreation Passport Grant. FOWP worked with the City of Williamston to apply for this grant in 2017 and came in 5 points behind the organizations receiving the grant. Making a few changes and updates, we reapplied in 2018 and are hopeful we will receive the funds, which will be announced in late December 2018 or early 2019. If we are not awarded the DNR grant of $59,200, we have identified additional grants to seek in early 2019. Several private individual donors also have contributed to the effort.
In May, FOWP held a Play-a-thon at McCormick Park to raise awareness of the playground project and get kids involved in raising money for it. Many organizations provided activities and donated services to make the day of music, activities, demonstrations and a variety of play options a success. Area kids and families raised more than $2,000 for the project. FOWP also participated in Williamston’s National Night Out in August.
As part of the 2018 Red Cedar Jubilee festivities, Cindy Bennett was recognized as FOWP Member of the Year for her lead role in organizing the Play-a-thon for the Parks. She also ensures the group's finances are in order by serving as treasurer and manages the Friends of Williamston Parks' Facebook page.
Families continue to enjoy supporting park improvement efforts by sponsoring fence slats around the wooden play structure at McCormick Park. FOWP recently started an effort to catalog the names on the slats so there is a record of those who have invested in the playground. This will allow us to properly replace damaged or missing slats as needed.
Another large project involved taking the first steps to becoming an independent nonprofit organization. Since its inception in 2015, FOWP has been operating under the umbrella of the Williamston Area Beautification Fund. WABF has provided invaluable support to FOWP and has allowed us to accomplish much in a short period of time. While WABF will continue to have a presence on the FOWP board, independent 501(c)(3) status will strengthen FOWP’s fundraising capabilities and eliminate some confusion about the organization.
In 2019, efforts will continue to make the Volunteers Community Park playground a reality. We also will focus on increasing our volunteer corps to call on for various needs and improving communication about FOWP initiatives with communities surrounding the City of Williamston.