Feature Article - January 2019
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Better Together

Partnerships for Program Success

By Rick Dandes

Public or Private, or Both?

There are many possibilities when it comes to partnering with government agencies, but in some cases, a public-private partnership can be an ideal solution to a problem. "Right now," Seigel said, "we are working with a municipality where a citizen active in the local bank reached out to us and said there was a problem property located in his community. He asked what could be done to turn it around and make it a gateway or a passive park.

"In that case, this individual agreed to work with the municipal government to raise private money if the municipal government would agree to own the facility. Our role was to use the private funds to first help raise those monies and then educate that individual on how he might do that. And secondly, reach out to a funding stream in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) community partnership program to leverage additional funds. The goal was to undertake a passive park, gateway kind of project in that community."

Seek out grant programs. You can partner with your state if you know where to look. Seigel, for example, was aware of a grant program that allowed him to access state funds to develop safe, modern playgrounds to replace seriously outdated equipment that was less safe.

"In that instance," Seigel said, "we became a conduit for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where we proposed to develop eight parks in eight different communities. We then received the funding from the Commonwealth, and we put together with each community a park design, worked with playground equipment manufacturers, did a bulk purchase where we bid out tractor-trailer loads of safety surface, drainage material and the play apparatus. We oversaw the funding and the installation of these eight parks. This was a great partnership."

There are development organizations all over the country. Also worth looking into: the National Association of Development Organizations (www.nado.org).

In Dallas, Ross said, "We partner with our school districts and try to provide additional green space opportunities where families can play." He added, "We partner with schools in regard to promoting programs, whether it is after-school programs or sports programs, as well as seasonal camps for kids."

The rationale for the partnership is easily explained, she said. "We are targeting similar audiences. Their kids are our kids. Their families are our families."

Most recently in Dallas, their partnerships are really growing on the programmatic side with the medical community, Ross added. "We've had a very successful relationship with Baylor Scott and White Health Center for the last eight years. And very recently we've been partnering with WellMed Charitable Foundation to build a senior center. They have been trying to get into the Dallas market, so for the last couple of years we've partnered with them in growing our senior program and providing senior events."

WellMed reached out to Ross, she said, because her department already had a program dedicated to seniors age 60 and older, and that is their target audience. In 2018 they donated $150,000 in support of senior initiatives. "But they wanted to open a senior center in Dallas, so they selected us as their partner," Ross noted.

The new center, a 25,000-square-foot health and wellness center, which opened in December 2018, offers free programs, with focus on nutrition, fitness and education. It is a repurposed facility, formerly an Office Depot. One side of the space is dedicated to a clinic, and the other side is for recreation.

Ross's team is partnering with WellMed to create the recreational programming.

Johnson, in Louisville, has also partnered with the local school district. "It's been very successful," he said. "The partnership is with Jefferson County Public School District, and they have a permanent office in one of our facilities. They put their resources into remodeling the space, updating the technology, and their permanent staff is located there. There have been zero issues with this. They are putting signage on the building so everybody knows that they are there."

Another successful partnership in Louisville is with an organization called Dare to Care (Food Bank), a local nonprofit agency with a program to feed the hungry and conquer the cycle of need. "We partner with them and they provide hot meals at our community centers for young people, 18 and under, and we do that five days a week," he said.

"It's not a recreation program, but it is vital to our community. There is no cost to the community, no paperwork, no free reduced lunch eligible. All you have to do is get in line and you get a hot meal. We try to give kids some foods that they might not have had before."

Johnson also has forged a relationship with other nonprofits, such as AMPED (The Academy of Music, Production, Education and Development), by turning over a former library space to the organization. "We figured they could get better use out of it than we could," he said. "It's still our building. They just have to maintain it as part of the contracted agreement."

AMPED is a free youth music program that provides a safe environment for Louisville's young minds to explore their creativity through the power of music. AMPED participants can learn songwriting, music composition, recording, engineering, videography, photography and more.