New park project in need of volunteers

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Bethel Park recreation development project is hanging by atenuous thread and its fate rests in the hands of Brookhaven andLincoln County residents.

Brookhaven Recreation Department Director Terry Reid said agrant that would allow the city to pay nothing for park developmentcould be in jeopardy if there are not enough volunteers to do thework on the project.

The park, which would be located near Bethel AME Church on SouthFirst Street, should cost $100,000 to build.

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The government will provide 70 percent through the grant if theterms of the grant are met. In other words, if the community canmeet the other 30 percent in volunteer labor costs.

“We have to provide $30,000 for volunteers or donated services,”said Reid. “And for instance, an engineer -there’s more of a dollarvalue on him than a coat toter, but we can put it all together forit to add up to the $30,000.”

Reid said there needs to be enough of a turnout volunteer-wiseto convince grant officials that the project will be completed andtheir funds will be matched.

Brenda Lacy, of the Mississippi Development Authority, told cityofficials she will need to see substantial community involvementbefore she will write the grant.

Lacy said that means, for starters, that there will need to beat least 40 volunteers to fill out applications. After thoseapplications are in, a community meeting will be scheduled.

“What I need is to see the people in the community coming out,”she said. “I need about 45-50 people that are interested. If theydon’t come out, that means they’re not interested and they don’tcare about having a park in the neighborhood.”

Reid re-emphasized the fate of the park lies in the hands of thecommunity in which it will be located.

“The community needs to say, ‘We want to do this,'” Reidsaid.

It’s going to take people not only filling out the applications,but also committing to be at the meeting, Reid said. The meetingwill be scheduled after interest applications have beencompleted.

Reid said anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged topick up an application from the recreation department, or at leastcall him at (601) 833-3791 for more information.

Lacy said she will need the 40 or more applications. But if shecomes for the meeting and the manpower is not evident, she stillwill not write the grant.

“Normally we let them sign in at the meeting, so that’s how Itell if the town wants the project and if it’s going to be asuccessful project,” said Lacy.

Thus, attendance is as important as bringing in theapplications, Reid said.

“If we’ve got a hundred volunteer applications and nobody at themeeting, she’s going to pull our grant,” Reid said.

Reid said anyone can help, and he said he’s asking that everyonedoes.

“It’s free money and people don’t seem to understand, there’ssomething for everyone to do,” he said. “I’ve talked to groups whohave told me, ‘We don’t have anyone, all the people that will helpare old.'”

He said old or young, rich or poor, black or white, there’s ajob for even the most feeble volunteer.

And for those with busy schedules, there will be work hours onweekends, as well as in the late afternoon.

“If you can only come for an hour that’s fine, or if you’rethere the whole time we’re building that’s fine,” he said. “Everytime someone shows up I can log them in and that helps.”

In addition, Reid said, there needs to be evident support fromthe Bethel community.

“I don’t know how Ms. Lacy is going to take it if no one fromthe community and the surrounding area of Bethel Park show up,” hesaid. “It’s a great program, and it’s free money.”

Bethel Church, which sold the land for the park to the city andasked that the park be called Bethel Park, will hopefully play akey role in providing some volunteers, said trustee StanfordQualls.

“I’m sure we will have some volunteers,” he said. “We aresupposed to have a meeting with Terry Reid next Monday night, andhe’s going to give us the details. Then we’ll see what we can do tohelp.”

Reid said if ever there was a time for the community to take anactive interest in the well-being of its children, the time isnow.

“The key to it is that it will cost the city nothing and we canput up a $100,000 park for no money if the community wants it,” hesaid. “But if they don’t want it enough to get people out to help,she pulls the grant.”

Qualls said it was so important to the church that they sold theland to the city in order to make a place for it.

“It’s real important,” he said. “That was the only reason they’dlet the city have it because there would be a park there.Otherwise, the church wouldn’t have gotten rid of theproperty.”