Park foundation to connect donors with Oak Park projects

Commissioners will unveil new group at the park centennial celebration

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

If funds come up short for installing extra lockers in the renovated Ridgeland Common or to install new playground equipment planned for Scoville Park, a new group enthusiastic about these and similar projects could help bridge the gaps.

The Park District Foundation of Oak Park — which will make a formal kick-off announcement at the park district's 100th anniversary celebration on April 13 — will accept tax-deductible donations from residents who want to support park district projects. The foundation will join about 100 others in the state that were created to financially supplement park systems.

The new gymnastics center and renovations at Scoville Park and Ridgeland Common are large enough projects that will likely include elements requiring supplemental funding, said Judy Shepelak, who has been leading the creation of the foundation for the last year and a half.

There may be people interested in services Ridgeland Common offers, like figure skating or swimming, who want to make a gift to support the renovation, said David Kindler, another organizer with the four-member foundation board. By June, Shepelak said the board would have nine members and plans to hold its first official meeting.

Until then, the foundation is in the process of securing nonprofit status and figuring out how to organize the donations they are given. Eventually, they plan to send out mailings and create a database of givers, Shepelak said.

The foundation will mostly serve as a link between donors and their projects of interest, said board member and former park board president Mark Gartland. But they also plan to help groups like sports organizations that want to do fundraising. Shepelak said they plan to approach companies for grants as well.

She is "really excited" about introducing the foundation and seeing what it might be able to do in the coming decades.

"I have no idea why our community hasn't approached this before," she said.

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