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Foundation backs parks
New group gathers funds, volunteers
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Forsyth County News

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For more information on the Forsyth County Parks Foundation, or to donate time or money, visit www.forsythcountyparks.org.

A small group of local leaders is seeking to grow support for Forsyth County’s parks.

Mary Helen McGruder, Cindy J. Mills, Kristin Morrissey, Jeff Stephens and Chris Stovall have worked together to create the Forsyth County Parks Foundation.

The organization will act as a support group for the county’s parks, attracting both volunteers and funding.

“In the past, there have been people that have wanted to help fund things, make donations or sponsorships, and there was just not a way to make that happen,” McGruder said.

Currently, money donated to the parks department goes to the county’s general fund. There is no guarantee it will be spent on parks projects.

The foundation will make that happen, beginning with the highest priorities, said Matt Pate, one of three county parks employees serving as a staff advisor for the organization.

“The board has us, the representatives from the parks department, to give them ideas of things that we may need or things they can help fund through private donations in the future,” Pate said.

“I think it’ll help tremendously. I mean, with shrinking tax revenues and operating budgets, having this supplemental organization ... is tremendous for us.”

Pate said the four areas of focus will be beautification, scholarships, large capital projects and smaller efforts.

The organization is working on a priority list of potential projects, including a splash pad, fitness pods, pavilions, benches, trees and playground improvements.

But if a donor specifically requests a certain project, that’s exactly where the money will go, Stephens said.

“Funds that are earmarked for particular purposes, we will absolutely see that it takes place,” he said.

Stephens, the organization's chairman, has been involved in the community for years, including service on the county’s school board, chamber of commerce and various athletic booster clubs.

He embraced the concept, largely conceived by McGruder, who he said was the “impetus behind the whole thing.”

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to create a new organization to help further the parks system and create an alternate source of funding,” he said. “We hope [the public will] get behind it.”