Friends of Williamston Parks fundraises to meet a matching grant

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The southern Williamston City limit sits just north of I-96. The small city is home to about 4,000 people. Credit: Isabella Johnson

Friends of Williamston Parks needs to raise $29,000 by October 22, 2021 to receive a matching grant form the Public Spaces Community Places program for their project to build a picnic pavilion at Volunteers Community Park.

Credit: Isabella Johnson

The organization

When Williamston locals noticed their parks weren’t getting the attention they needed, the Friends of Williamston Parks organization stepped up to the plate.

“There were some budget cuts at the local government level here in Williamston,” said Heather Galecka, the organization’s president. “There really wasn’t a lot of funds for park upkeep and improvement, so the organization was started to fill that gap.”

Friends of Williamston Parks is a non-profit community group made up of volunteers that work to plan, fundraise and implement improvements to parks in the area. 

“We do lots of things,” Galecka said. “We always have a cleanup day and we installed a new piece of equipment at a park earlier this year. There are just so many different things going on at all times.” 

The community

Williamston resident Andrew Belanger said Williamston residents are excited about the upcoming additions to the parks.

“As a lifelong resident of Williamston, I’m so happy to see this new shelter being added to Volunteers Park,” Belanger said. “My family spends many happy hours at Williamston’s community parks, and we look forward to enjoying this gathering space for years to come.”

The Volunteers Community Park project

In 2016, Friends of Williamston Parks made Volunteers Community Park on the corner of School and Putnam Street their main priority. From there, the organization teamed up with the Williamston Area Beautification Fund, and together they began fundraising for the first phase of the project. The first phase was a plan to construct a new playground that they were able to complete in July of 2019 with the help of more than 70 volunteers.

The two organizations have continued to work together to execute more improvements to the park, and they have since moved on to phase two of the project. 

The second phase consists of building a picnic shelter with a concrete base, walkway and picnic tables on the grounds of the park. 

The goal of the project as a whole is to enhance the park and to create a gathering space in the heart of Williamston.

Project funding

The picnic shelter project was selected by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for the PSCP program, a grant matching program that focuses on helping raise money for crowdfunding public space projects.

Jake Winder, the MEDC senior program specialist, said that since the launch of the program in 2014, PSCP has supplied $9.3 million in matching grants to 294 different community projects.

“The Public Spaces Community Places program is the epitome of community engagement,” Winder said. “The program supports local efforts to rejuvenate under-developed areas by matching all donations made by members of the community. When a goal is met, the MEDC matches the donation, dollar-for-dollar, to ensure the project is successful.”