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Fund looks to expand park, center

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Two new grants totaling $120,000 from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County will allow a park to expand and a community center to be renovated.

A grant of $50,000 to the Columbus Park Foundation will enable it to purchase a property adjacent to Ninth Street Park. Following the demolition of the house on the property, the expanded park will provide green space for play and programing opportunities.

The project was developed following concerns by areas residents regarding the condition of the property and the safety of children playing at the nearby park.

“Heritage Fund is delighted to provide grant support to enable the Park Foundation and the City of Columbus to make improvements to the park and address safety issues,” Tracy Souza, president and CEO of Heritage Fund, said in a news release. “The Ninth Street Park is an important community asset.

“The improvement project aligns with our new initiative of Bridging the Economic Gap. We regard the project as a catalyst for revitalizing the Ninth Street Park area,” Souza said.

She said Heritage Fund, in collaboration with other community partners, will work with residents to support continued neighborhood improvement and revitalization efforts.

Mayor Kristen Brown said the grant is an important step toward safety.

“The Ninth Street Park is the heart of our most distressed neighborhood,” Brown said in a release.

“Until six months ago, the park had become a magnet for anti-social behavior and criminal activity, particularly drug-related issues.

Brown said rehabilitation of the park will serve as a catalyst for renewal and revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood and community.

Randy Allman, executive director of Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, said that the work will be the third phase of improvements at the park.

“The park means the world to the children, youth and families who live in that area,” Allman said in a media release. “We appreciate Heritage Fund listening to our residents. It’s nice to know their voices are heard.”

The Community Center of Hope will receive a challenge grant of $70,000 to provide the necessary funds for renovations to the east and west wings at the center. Significant in-kind donations will cover major renovations to the exterior of the west wing, which will be the future home of the community food pantry and senior center.

The east wing will transition into an education wing and will be home to preschool and expanded child care programs. Heritage Fund will provide $2 for each $1 raised to support the project.

“The energy and ability of the community center’s board and staff to get things done is impressive,” Souza said. “We are confident that, while the project is ambitious, (with) the skills and talents of the project leaders, along with the support of volunteers and in-kind contributions, the project will be successfully completed before the end of the year.”

Souza said the completed project will allow the center to better serve its clients.

As the fund’s Community Foundation receives donations from local citizens and organizations, fund leaders then can use investment income to award grants to not-for-profit organizations serving the needs of residents throughout the county.

In 2012, the local foundation awarded grants and scholarships with more than $1.9 million.

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