Friends of Bethlehem Parks and Recreation members will soon be able to ramp up donations and public participation with the creation of a new website.
The group was recently the recipient of $2,000 through the 2014 Growing the Grassroots Grant. The award was announced on Thursday, Jan. 9, by the Albany-based nonprofit, Parks and Trails New York.
Joan Gavrilik, Friends of Bethlehem Parks and Recreation president, said the group specifically applied for the money with a website in mind.
“It’s the next step for us,” she said. “You don’t seem like a legitimate organization if people can’t find you online.”
The group was formed in January of last year with an eight-member board. It then received its federal tax-exempt status in August.
The idea came out of the town’s 2012 Citizen Budget Advisory Committee that worked to draft a list of savings in the town budget, including cuts to the parks department. One of the suggestions was to establish a “friends” group to help raise funds and provide additional pmaintenance of areas, pursue various grants and possibly enter into a shared services agreement with the Highway Department. Gavrilik was a member of that committee.
The group is working closely with Parks and Recreation Department Director Nan Lanahan, who said in the past she is thankful for the group’s efforts and sees the organization as a long-term fixture of the town.
According to Gavrilik, the first year was spent trying to figure out how to do the paperwork to be a non-profit. “None of us were very experienced, but we got there eventually,” she said.
The group’s first activity was setting up a table at the anniversary celebration for Elm Avenue Park’s pool last summer. They handed out pamphlets, sold T-shirts and sought donations.
Gavrilik said although people seemed interested, it was hard to really get people involved without a place to direct them to for more information.
The new website will be developed by Last Detail Marketing and Web Design of Delmar. The thought is the website will provide more information about the group. It will accept online donations, have a newsletter and provide a sign-up sheet for volunteers. The group also wants to launch an online survey for the town’s residents.
“It’s a service we can do without spending a lot of money,” said Gavrilik. “We want to figure out how we should concentrate our time and efforts.”
Gavrilik said the town’s demographics are changing, and with that are the ways residents may have used the town’s parks in previous years. Soon, the group will focus on improving programs, equipment and increasing the use of town parks for all age groups.
“We want to know what it would take to bring people back to the parks,” said Gavrilik. “We have beautiful parks in Bethlehem. A lot of people used to go when their kids were small, but haven’t been there in years. We want to address that.”
The goal is to have the new website operational by May 1. For now, Gavrilik said Friends of Bethlehem Parks and Recreation can be contacted by going through the town’s website.