Thanks to the pleas of a young girl and the generosity of the community, the county’s summer parks program will be extended.
The Allen County Parks Department’s Summer Day Camp program was reduced this year from four to three weeks after the park’s general fund budget was cut by almost $9,000. The parks generate operating income through fees and other revenue. County tax dollars pay for personnel.
After funding was cut, there was not enough money to pay staff for a fourth week, said Jeff Baxter, parks superintendent.
Parks staff were reluctant to cut the camps and reallocated their time and resources to conduct three weeks of camps without bringing in additional help like they have in the past, Baxter said. But despite their efforts, there was still not enough funding to pay personnel for a fourth week, he said.
But that changed after 11-year-old Mariah Smith – a participant in the camping programs – spotlighted the parks’ dilemma by writing letters to local newspapers.
Local resident Mo Palmer saw Mariah’s letter and called Baxter. She told him she was contacting colleagues and friends to gather the $1,300 needed to fund a fourth week, Baxter said.
And she did, he said. We had a great response. The efforts by local businesses and members of the community to secure funding for a fourth week of camp have been a huge success.
On one hand, Baxter was surprised, but on the other hand, the community has always been supportive, he said.
I’ve lived here all of my life and this community is amazing when it comes to stepping up to the plate, especially for parks and recreation, Baxter said.
The additional week of camp has been named Mariah’s Community Nature Camp in honor of Mariah.
Businesses and individuals who came to the program’s rescue included Tom and Mo Palmer, Ed and Cynthia Powers, Maurice and Leslie Sperry, Three Rivers Fly Fishers, Ellmar Farms – Ellis & Marilynn McFadden, Concordia Gardens Community Association, Fins and Flowers Water Gardens, Rosalie Cummings, Myers Plant Healthcare, Cornerstone Landscape Group and Felgers Peat Moss.