The Rotary Club of Amherst (“RCA”) announced today that it is awarding the first annual Amherst Rotary Community Grant in the amount of $25,000 for a new and expanded playground at Crocker Farm Elementary School. Crocker’s Parent Guardian Organization (“PGO”) has already raised over $13,000 toward this $43,500 project. Rotary’s $25,000 grant will be structured as a matching grant, whereby Rotary will match at a rate of 5:1 the additional $5,000 of community contributions that must be raised to complete the project. Tax deductible contributions to the Crocker Farm Playground project may be made by mailing a check made out to the Amherst Education Foundation (with CF PGO in the memo) at P. O. Box 2237, Amherst, MA 01004, or online at www.amhersteducationfoundation.org (specifying CF PGO).
The grant will be awarded at a Rotary Club meeting to be held at noon on April 22, 2010 at Hickory Ridge Country Club, with Rep. Ellen Story, School Committee Chair Irv Rhodes (both Rotarians), Principal Michael Morris, and PGO representatives attending. Amherst’s School Committee voted to name the new playground, “The Crocker Farm Rotary Playground”.
The Crocker playground was selected from among the twenty projects competing for this new Community Grant program, through which RCA plans to make a large grant each year to fund “a single project at a local non-profit organization or civic project that provides a positive impact that continues long after grant funds have been spent”. The Community Grant program has become possible through the success of the new Amherst Rotary Auction fundraiser held on ACTV each November, and is in addition to the club’s ongoing giving and scholarship programs. Rotary also donates about $24,000 in smaller amounts to local non-profit organizations, global humanitarian projects, and college scholarships to graduating local high school students.
With Crocker Farm’s enrollment slated to increase from 325 to 420 students next year (mainly due to redistricting following the closing of Mark’s Meadow), the project’s grant application describes the current playground as too small and “in desperate need of replacement, with current equipment out of code, in a state of disrepair, and between 15 and 20 years old”. The application continues, “Several structures are missing pieces; others have safety bars held on with duct tape. Further, the number of play spaces is inadequate to meet the physical needs of students. With over 30% of the school’s students characterized as overweight … and fewer children getting the exercise they need to be healthy outside of school hours, it is vital that we provide engaging and challenging play structures to help students become physically fit.”
Crocker has struggled for years to raise money for a new playground, but has been unable to match the successful fundraising efforts that led to new playgrounds at both Wildwood and Fort River Elementary Schools. A renewed push this year has brought the project’s fundraising total up to more than $13,000 through several events including a “Brown Envelope Appeal”, a solicitation of local businesses, and a “Dance-a-Thon” held in March. The PGO is currently working on “Final Appeal”, and will do some fundraising jointly with Rotary at the Amherst Community Fair (itself a Rotary fundraiser) on Amherst Common on Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8. An electronics collection fundraiser will be held at the school on May 15.
Greg Boisseau, President of RCA, commented, “Rotary is all about community service; so we were inspired by how hard the Crocker PGO has been working to raise money for this important project for the community. It’s great that, in the first year of our Community Grant program, we’ll be able to partner with the PGO to help to put their “grass roots” fundraising effort “over the top” and benefit community kids right away. With this $25,000 grant matching new donations 5:1, we know our community will respond to this last $5,000 fundraising challenge.”
Crocker Farm Principal Michael Morris said, “This donation will make it possible to both upgrade and expand our playground, increasing our students’ physical activity (with tremendous health benefits), and accommodating our growing student population.”
Lucy McMurrer, Co-Chair of the Crocker Farms PGO, said “Although Crocker’s facilities are generally spectacular, its playground has fallen sadly behind. In a community that prides itself on education like Amherst, it’s a shame to have a school playground that falls is so lacking in what the children need. Playgrounds are especially important in view of concerns about child obesity and kids spending too much time inside in front of computers. Our family lives only a short walk away from Crocker, but we often drive our children to the playgrounds at Wildwood and Fort River. These schools have been able to raise funds for wonderful playgrounds. I’m thrilled that we’ll now be able to meet the developmental needs of all of our community’s kids.”
Becky Demling, Co-Chair of the Crocker Farms PGO, said “It’s important for the community to know that what we’re building is not “just a playground”. To the kids, it’s so much more. It’s a powerful physical and emotional break from school, an opportunity to develop and nurture friendships, and a chance to exercise and gain the body strength needed to sit in school and focus on work. This is a playground that will benefit all of the kids in our community.”
Greg Boisseau added, “We also want to thank the community for its support of the new Amherst Rotary Auction (held each November on ACTV) which made this grant possible. Every community member who bought or donated an auction item, or donated cash as a sponsor, helped fund this playground for our community’s kids. We’d particularly like to thank again our 2009 auction underwriters Amherst Insurance and Taylor Davis Landscape and Construction Company, and our Gold Level Sponsors Blair, Cutting & Smith, Jones Town & Country Realty, Greenfield Savings Bank, Florence Savings Bank, and Northampton Cooperative Bank.”
The 90-member Rotary Club of Amherst is part of Rotary International, a 1.3 million member non-profit global service organization that, through the Rotary Foundation, is the world’s largest private provider of scholarships for international study, and a major player in global health and humanitarian initiatives. Such initiatives include projects for the worldwide eradication of polio (a cause to which Rotary has already contributed or pledged about $750 million), as well as projects to improve literacy and provide access to clean water in developing countries.
For more information, please contact Bruce McInnis at (413) 219-5625.