Foundations, friends groups in Kane County provide a big boost
The planks of the Batavia Riverwalk are an exercise in people’s devotion to their community.
Built by volunteers in the 1990s, the Riverwalk overlooks the Fox River, Depot Pond and has a gazebo. But its 864 lineal feet of elevated boardwalk over the wetlands are in need of replacement, said Steve McKenna, president of the Batavia Parks Foundation.
“The wood is starting to show its age,” McKenna said. “It’s pushing 20 years. Maintenance aspects are getting steeper for the park district. Some sections are questionable from a safety perspective.”
Toward that end, the parks foundation board is in the planning and fundraising stage, McKenna said. The group set up a Purchase-A-Plank website, www.purchaseaplank.com/donate-here, to facilitate donations.
The Batavia Park District is among several area schools, parks and library districts to have a volunteer group of supporters in an established charitable foundation. Each enhances the mission of its respective taxing body, often raising significant funds and providing volunteer labor.
“Our total budget is $175,000,” McKenna said. “We have a community campaign targeting $40,000, and we are applying for grants. We expect support from the park district and the city.”
The Batavia Parks Foundation, formed in 2004, has raised about $500,000 to support projects, McKenna said.
“People appreciate the opportunity to give back to the community,” McKenna said. “It’s more than just writing a check. Yes, they pay taxes for parks and schools and libraries. This is an opportunity for them to ... go above and beyond.”
At library districts, “friends” groups host used book sales to raise money for programs. For example, the Friends of the St. Charles Public Library help underwrite incentives for the summer reading programs and the ice cream social. The friends bought the aquarium for youth services and shares in its maintenance, bought five book drops, display cabinets and sponsors a variety of programs.
“I do this because I love to read,” said Joanne Surratt, St. Charles friends board treasurer. “My real jobs were in accounting or bookkeeping, so I volunteered to be the treasurer.”
The friends also sponsor Junior Friends who volunteer in the youth department, shelving books and helping with programs and behind-the-scenes jobs, she said.
A. Denise Farrugia, St. Charles Public Library youth services manager, praised the friends for their support, in particular for the 12-hour baby sitter training course.
“Baby sitter training is very special,” Farrugia said. “We are the only library that I know of that is offering baby sitter training in first aid and CPR.”
Since its funding in 1987, the Geneva Academic Foundation has raised $1.1 million, paying for extras and must-haves not in the district’s budget, GAF Board President Laura Zuzuly. GAF has paid for everything from art kilns at the elementary schools to microscopes and computers, she said. The group grants awards to teachers who apply for them.
“Every year, it’s a surprise when we get to review the grants,” Zuzuly said. “Last year, the thing I thought was absolutely great was a seventh-grade science teacher at Geneva Middle School South wanted animal skeletons to teach anatomy.”
While library friends tend to host book sales, the others host events to raise money. For instance, GAF hosts bowling nights, silent auctions and a 50/50 raffle called Lucky Buck Duck Chuck during halftime at varsity basketball games.
“We try to make them fun,” Zuzuly said. “I think we are very lucky that we do live in a very good area. There are a lot of people who care, and care a lot. It’s a good cause. Our kids are our future and we need to give them as much opportunities as possible, expose them as much as we can to the good stuff.”