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Park Gift Fund: Donations For Playground, Benches, Dog Park, And More

Ready to answer selectmen’s questions about their Park Gift Fund, a small account that has swelled due to a flood of post-12/14 contributions, Parks and Recreation Department Chairman Amy Mangold and commission Chairman Ed Marks spoke with selectmen Monday, February 3.

As of January 31 this year, an influx of funds supporting a playground project, dog park, trees, gardens, and scholarships, the Park Gift Fund total is $299,785.88.

After Mr Marks handed out a short list of projects, Ms Mangold began: “Dealing daily in response to 12/14 was overwhelming — the scope of generosity.” With the Park Gift Fund already in place, her department “already had a way for people to give if they chose. We did not solicit.” Many people asked to give to projects with children. The recreation department was able to put the gifts where donors “wanted it to go,” Ms Mangold said.

“People were able to donate with confidence if they had a specific idea, [money] could go directly to that project,” she said.

Of the more than $299,000, the largest slice of donations went to Dickinson Park Playground Project at more than $201,000. This past fall saw the roughly 20-year-old playground at Dickinson demolished to make way for a new playscape design and installation. With plans ready, Ms Mangold and her staff await warmer weather when new playground construction can begin. The donations made the full scale project possible.

One family of a child lost on 12/14 “wanted to collect funds for something in the dog park,” and as donors were able to support this family’s wishes, is more than $17,000 was raised in memory of Olivia Engle.

One gentleman from Ohio organized an initiative to fund 26 benches for Newtown, Ms Mangold explained. He had contacted her office just days after the school shooting and was already collecting funds.

Mr Marks said the sites for benches have not yet been determined.

Already completed this past summer was the gift of 26 trees planted at Treadwell Park.

With its previous trees aging and in need of maintenance or removal, Ms Mangold said, “We had actually needed to replace trees, so we researched the proper type of tree and worked with the donor.” An “important” part of that contributions was the additional funding for future care and maintenance of the trees, she said.

A recent swim-a-thon collected nearly $5,000, and Nike contributed a Nike Camp Scholarship of $20,000 used for last year’s day camp students.

First Selectman Pat Llodra said, “I am impressed that your office was able to handle [the flood of donations].” The work was also done with “good record keeping and documentation.”

Selectman Will Rodgers said, “I’ll add my thanks.” He is especially glad to see the documentation.

Selectman James Gaston added, “You’re doing an astonishing job, going above and beyond.”

With budget requests about to begin, Mr Marks joked, “We will be asking for a truck…”

Regarding the recreation department’s roughly $2.2 million budget request, which selectman soon approved, Mr Gaston said, “You are quite mindful of the economy, I’m respectful of that and I think the public should be respectful of that.”

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