Members of Friends of Newton Parks received a welcome holiday gift this December as their application for 501(c)3 non-profit status was accepted by the office of the Georgia Secretary of State.
Established in December 2006, Friends of Newton Parks can now accept tax-deductible donations for the construction of a planned community park adjacent to the Newton County Library.
"The new community park will boast many features for disabled children and their families," said Terry Smith, FNP chairman in a newsletter, "as well as for the elderly and those who value peaceful play and contemplation in a natural site."
Lead by registered architect Hank Methvin, students at the University of Georgia's Metropolitan Design Studio have created concept drawings for the park's more interesting features such as the three exploration trails, splash fountain, garden in the ruins of a historic home, mini-amphitheater, storytelling circle, large tree house, splash fountain, chime garden and 10 exercise stations.
Member Connie Waller said an initial fund-raising effort a year ago yielded more than $20,000, but the group still has a long way to go toward its funding goal of $3.5 million.
The fundraising committee has been busily brainstorming ideas which would engage the entire community.
Ideas include a local music and talent concert or a local art and sculpture competition with items available for sale, or an annual storytelling festival or other seasonal gatherings which would draw a large crowd to the park.
"We're still kind of batting those around to decide what we want to do," Waller said.
FNP members also are anxiously awaiting word on two $350,000 grants for which they have applied. Waller said she could not provide specific details on the grants as they are pending, but said one was from a local source and the other a regional one.
"Those grants would move us along at lightning speed," Waller said.
On Oct. 30, FNP and the Friends of the Library hosted speaker Cheryl Charles who co-founded the Children & Nature Network with author Richard Louv ("Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder") as part of a movement to reconnect youth with nature.
Charles lectured on the mental and physical benefits associated with outside play and commended FNP for their efforts to create opportunities for families to experience the outdoors.
"Those of us on the board are very concerned about the national statistics on children and the deficit of their not being out of doors," Waller said. "Children's health is at stake with obesity and attention deficit disorder and all.
"We really believe that children will be smarter, more well-rounded and in better health if they regularly play in nature."
The Newton County Recreation Department recently announced plans for another community park across from Oak Hill Elementary School on Ga. Highway 212, funded largely by the City of Covington and Newton County.
"Initially our focus is going to be the project behind the library, and then we want to eventually branch out to others," Waller said of FNP.
To make a tax-deductible donation, make checks payable to Friends of Newton Parks Inc. and send to 1124 Clark Street, Covington, Ga. 30014.
Concept drawings of the park's features are available for viewing. Estimates of construction costs of individual features are available as well for those wanting to sponsor a particular element of the park. To review drawings and feature cost estimates, contact Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk at email@example.com.
To join one of Friends of Newton Parks' four committees - design/construction, marketing and public relations, fundraising and special events or finance - contact Barbara Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the benefits of exposing children to the natural world, visit www.cnaturenet.org.