New Haven Parks Department head Mike Clendenen picked up the phone at 11 a.m. Monday and had his 2016 start off with a bang.
It was Lt. Gov. Sue Ellsperman calling to say New Haven had just gotten a $35,000 state grant for a long-awaited band shell project in Schnelker Park.
"It was pretty exciting." Clendenen said.
The news was similarly exhilarating for a group of five women in Decatur, who learned $40,000 in state money would be coming to help turn the long-idled Pennsylvania Railroad depot at 111 N. 7th St. into a community center.
Both grants were awarded by the Place-Based Investment Fund administered by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development and the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
The two local projects are among seven quality-of-life initiatives chosen by the annual grant program, now in its fourth year, said Emily Duncan, Ellspermann’s public relations director.
For New Haven, the grant will mean completing updates begun years ago to Schnelker as part of a master plan for the community’s parks, Clendenen said.
The park will not only get a permanent band shell with updated electrical service at its south end near Prospect Avenue, he said. A new awning at a concession stand, a patio with six picnic tables for seating and new sidewalks will be constructed in upcoming months, he said.
He said the grant came about through a partnership with the recently formed New Haven Community Foundation and the New Haven Chamber of Commerce.
Those agencies raised about $53,000 toward the $88,000 project, he said, and the grant program was looking for projects with several cooperating agencies.
The state money "gives us so many new opportunities," Clendenen said. "It gives opportunities for new music, movies in the park, art shows and craft shows and theatrical shows, like maybe children’s theater.
"It’s one of those things – ‘Build it and they will come,’ " he added. "That’s worked in the past for us, and we think this will be no different."
In Decatur, the money caps about seven months of fundraising by The Pennsy Depot Restoration Committee. Around town, said Melissa Norby, Decatur’s community coordinator, the women are affectionately known as "The Pennsy Ladies."
The youngest will turn 66 next month, said Cheri Scherry, a member of the group.
She said the state grant means the women won’t have to do quite so much fundraising. So far, the women have sold T-shirts, a calendar featuring historic Decatur scenes, lemon shake-ups and pictures with Santa.
And they’ve put on a benefit tea and a sock hop with a popular local oldies band, the Bulldogs.
"It’s been fundraisers back to back since May," Scherry said.
Already completed at the city-owned brick depot are a new roof and some interior renovations, she said. The budget for the rest of the project, which includes updated electrical service, interior and exterior work and landscaping will be $80,000 to $100,000.
The restoration should be done by October, Scherry said, and the property will be rented out to business and family groups for gatherings. The restorers also want the depot used for educational railroad displays and programs.
"There’s been so much community involvement in this (project)," Scherry said. "It really doesn’t seem like work to us because people have just bent over backwards to help us.
"We all have families and grandchildren in this community and just felt it was time to give back," she added. "We want that depot to be there in the future."