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Friends of Memorial Park celebrates 1st year

Members and supporters of Friends of Memorial Park try out some of the new benches the groupunveiled Tuesday evening.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Randy Newman first sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” more than 20 years ago.

The line could be a mantra for the group of Henry County residents who have come together to help Memorial Park continue to be a treasure for the community.

Friends of Memorial Park marked the completion of their first year of service Tuesday with an annual meeting and celebration at one of the park’s shelter houses.

Friends of Memorial Park Treasurer Joyce Jester summarized the journey over the past 12 months.

“We’re only a year old now,” Jester said. “Right now, we’re happy to get a few maintenance things done and be able to see a difference.”

Just after Friends formed last summer, the group started collecting plastic bottle caps to create new park benches. Over the next six months, volunteers gathered enough caps to get nine 4-foot benches and a large plastic picnic table that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Jester said the Friends are taking suggestions from community members about where the park benches should be placed.

Friends of Memorial Park received a couple grants this spring that will help their mission to keep the park a community asset.

Jester told Friends members that the group used a $1,000 grant from the Henry County Community Foundation’s Teens About Serving the Community (TASC) to buy three new baby swings, 10 new hard-plastic bench swings and new volleyball and tennis nets.

“That was pretty amazing,” Jester said.

The Community Foundation itself awarded Friends of Memorial Park with $7,000 during the spring grant cycle. Jester said they purchased large pieces of playground equipment that will be placed around the park.

Jester said that the Friends kept accessibility in mind when selecting the new playground equipment.

Friends of Memorial Park Secretary Carla Guffey announced that the group is also planning a “Tour de Park” bicycling event this fall to show off the different aspects of the park.

Memorial Park Board Member Lis McDonnell thanked the Friends for all the work they have put into supporting the park.

“We are so blessed to have you guys working with us,” McDonnell said.

Community members Betty Cashner and Carol Wilson showed up to the Friends meeting to celebrate a successful first year with the volunteers.

“I’m 100 percent behind them,” Cashner said. “Anything they do, I’m supportive.”

Wilson is excited for people to come out to Memorial Park and see all the improvements the Friends have been helping with.

For more information, visit www.friendsofmemorialpark.com.