At this month’s North Delridge Neighborhood Council meeting (WSB coverage here), NDNC co-vice chair Betsy Hoffmeister reported a new development in the campaign for playground improvements in the area – instead of focusing on Cottage Grove Park, the attention turned to a proposal targeting the Delridge Community Center‘s playground. We got this update from her late last night – it includes some concern about the process, an offer of help, and the potential need for more:
Amazing things keep happening in Delridge! Kaboom, a national nonprofit organization, works with communities to help them build safe places to play. Occasionally, a corporate sponsor approaches Kaboom!, offering to fund a playground in a specific area. The organization helps the community group plan the playground, and comes in on one specific day and builds the whole thing.
In late March, Kaboom asked the Delridge Community Center to make a proposal to overhaul their 15 year old playground which, by the way, no longer meets federal safety standards. A donor corporation targeted the Delridge area, and the Community Center specifically and asked them to put together a proposal – by April 11. When the North Delridge Neighborhood Council (playground committee) heard this amazing news, we dropped our Neighborhood Matching Grant Proposal about Cottage Grove Playground, asked all the donors to switch allegiance to the Community Center proposal, and asked all the volunteers if they’d be willing to help out one mile north. Every single donor and volunteer agreed.
The Delridge Community Center whipped together a proposal which Kaboom really liked. Their advisory council recommended they apply to the City’s Small and Simple matching fund for additional resources, knowing they would need City oversight as the project is part of the Parks Department. They had less than two days to get a Small and Simple proposal together but managed to get everything together and get their proposal in.
On April 18, Kaboom had a conference call with the Community Center, representatives of the Parks Department, the SSCC, NDNC, and their advisory council. Kaboom was thrilled what they heard and asked for a second round which took place today, April 28. They as much as said as this proposal is the top contender. Unfortunately, the funding from the Parks Department, to cover the Parks Department oversight and the preparation of the site is far from certain. There are 74 proposals to the Small and Simple round from all over the City, with much less money available to spread around. The Kaboom folks were extremely worried to hear that the City wouldn’t be able to make a decision until after the Kaboom deadline. They called the NDNC (and basically said look, you are our top contender, it would be really sad if you didn’t get the grant because the City’s deadline is after ours) to ask if there was anything the neighbors could do … any way to come up with the site preparation/excavation without the city.
Amazingly, a neighbor who happens to be a licensed and bonded excavator volunteered to do the site preparation for FREE! We do not yet know whether the City will allow this company to volunteer their services to prepare the site. We also don’t know how we can pay the Parks employees to usher the playground designs through all of the reviews it needs to go through, and to oversee site preparation and installation. We are waiting extremely anxiously to hear from the City whether they will permit such an unorthodox approach. They have so many rules!
If you’ve read this far, you are a diehard Delridge Groupie. And you can ask yourself, how can I be helping make this amazing thing come true? And you might be feeling a little frustrated – why does the City tend to make things harder – here’s a golden opportunity to leverage a really big grant and upgrade a really needy playground really fast. So, what can you do? Approach any business that is not suffering horribly right now and ask them for a pledge – just a pledge – of $250, $500, $1000, or more. We don’t need cash in hand, we need pledges that folks will follow through on. Think about your tax return and see if you have a spare $50 (or $100, or $1000) to pledge. Go to the Community Center and sign a form stating you will pledge volunteer hours. Think if you know a licensed and bonded contractor who might be willing to donate excavation services. Imagine your vision of the Delridge Community Center with a new, safe, up to date, accessible playground for children of all ages, and respond to this with enthusiasm so I can send your responses on to the City, Kaboom, and maybe even our Councilmembers to ask for their help. Write to me with suggestions. If you are an artist or musician, think about how you could help hold an instant fundraiser for the playground to help us raise a few hundred or thousand bucks. (before you ask, we have a huge donation already from Nucor and from BECU).
Best case scenario – the people who need to respond, respond very quickly in the morning, and we have our answer right away, and they say “yes, of course the volunteer can do the excavation,” and then Kaboom is happy, and we’re happy, and it’s all good. But if Delridge needs help – and needs it fast – we need to know who is on deck to help out.
So far today, she hasn’t heard from the city – but you can e-mail her with offers of help, ideas, etc., at betsy (at) hoffmeisters.com.