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Friends of the Park Exceeds 2022 $100,000 Endowment Goal

Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau members during a check ceremony

(pictured above: Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) board members Kit Newkirk, Laura Monnett ‘99, long-time DePauw soccer coach and athletic director Page Cotton, who is president of the CVB board; Friends of the Park board members Kristen Fuhs Wells, longtime DePauw economics professor Gary Lemon, President of the Friends of the Park board Jessica Hartman, Stacie Langdon; Putnam County Community Foundation members Neysa Meyer, director; Kyle Beasley, board treasurer; and Dean Gamble, community development director.)

Friends of the Park of Putnam County, the county’s parks foundation, exceeded its 2022 endowment goal of $100,000 thanks to member contributions, a matching grant and two significant gifts, including $25,000 from the alumni of Delta Kappa Epsilon (Deke) fraternity in honor of Betty and Pete Jackson ’44. “Our goal is to raise $100,000 annually for five years,” said Friends of the Park Board President Jessica Hartman. “This was our first year, and we are very thankful to have been successful.”

As part of the community input process that resulted in the county’s five-year master plan for outdoor recreation, one of more than 40 goals residents included was creation of a Friends of the Park endowment to help fund the plan’s outdoor recreation initiatives. A second goal was for that endowment to reach $500,000 by the end of 2026, the final year of the five-year plan. 

Members gave more than $15,500 that was matched $1-for-$1 by the Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), bringing the total to more than $30,000. A $25,000 grant from the Putnam County Community Foundation also was matched by the CVB, as was a portion of a $25,000 grant from the Ruby Cup Foundation, the charitable foundation of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity chapter that was on the DePauw campus from 1866 to 1996. The Friends of the Park endowment ended the year with nearly $116,000 invested.

“Our foundation was established more than 30 years ago,” said Tim Holt ’88, secretary of Deke’s Ruby Cup Foundation board. “Its giving parameters are broad, and the board wanted to benefit residents of the county. We want to give back to so many people who gave so much to us as college kids, as well as leave a Deke legacy in Putnam County and memorialize Betty and Pete Jackson, who left a significant bequest to the foundation.”

Pete Jackson’s family had already left a considerable legacy at DePauw. Pete, his brother John Jr. ’42 and sister Judy ‘49, were the fourth-generation of the family to attend the university. Their great-grandfather, Henry Jackson, was in the Class of 1865. Their grandfather, John L. Jackson ’89, and his brother Emmett Jackson ’00, started the family’s fraternity tradition at Deke.

In all, nine Jackson men over four generations were members of the DePauw chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon. In 1991, John S. Jackson ’17, whose sister Laura was in the DePauw Class of 1913, was honored as the chapter’s oldest living alumnus over a weekend of alumni activities at the chapter house. That event caused Betty and Pete to leave a bequest to the chapter’s charitable foundation. Decades earlier, the Jackson family helped fund the original building of DePauw’s Roy O. West Library.

“Outdoor recreation was certainly something important to us as DePauw students,” Holt said. “Our chapter house was built alongside Robe-Ann Park in 1922, and generations of Dekes took full advantage of everything it offers. Helping Friends of the Park of Putnam County create an endowment that supports the growth of outdoor recreation makes a lot of sense for us as DePauw alumni.”

Of reaching the first-year endowment goal, Hartman said, “The board is challenged by the role Friends of the Park (FOTP) can play in increasing local quality of life, and it’s hard to find words that express how grateful we are to our members, the community and the alumni of Delta Kappa Epsilon for supporting this outdoor recreation effort that will impact everyone and make Putnam County a better place to live and visit.”

Already setting goals for next year, the FOTP board hopes to grow to 250 members in 2023 as a way to engage more people interested in developing outdoor recreation venues, programs and events in Putnam County. Annual FOTP membership is $25 for individuals and $50 for families. More information is at PutnamParks.org/Friends.

Since its founding in 1995, FOTP has funded dozens of projects through contributions from members, donors and grantors. Recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, the organization became, and has remained, a major funder of People Pathways, the county’s nearly 18-mile trail system also founded in 1995.

For years, FOTP’s focus was primarily on Greencastle’s Robe-Ann Park. The foundation was instrumental in funding “The Castle” playground and, with the Greencastle Civic League, initiated and completed the “Emerald Palace” playground. With a group of parents and youth, it created the Greencastle Skatepark, one of the best concrete skateparks in the Midwest.

FOTP supported the addition of handicap-accessible picnic tables in Robe-Ann, new lifejackets for the “learn to swim” program and a new Aquatics Center audio system. In 2014, it helped finance the Bob York Splash Park, and FOTP was the recipient of more than $70,000 in grants in 2018, funding that contributed to the replacement of the park’s Bandshell.

Projects outside Robe-Ann Park include partnering with People Pathways on successfully completing Phase One of the Putnam Nature Trail. FOTP worked with the City of Greencastle to create Mary Rogers Field Park, an open space park next to City Hall with plantings to attract birds and butterflies.

In 2011, FOTP committed to the community’s Independence Day “Celebrate 4” event, and has overseen  fundraising ever since.  It also collaborated on landscaping the 80-acre Big Walnut Sports Park, and it helped fund the Jaycee Park Multi-Use Trail, a 1.5-mile pathway inside the 22-acre park on Greencastle’s east side.

The organization’s focus now is countywide. In 2023, it will help fund the Putnam County Mural Project, the Big Walnut Bird Club, the Pedal Putnam bike ride/race, and other initiatives. Currently, it is taking applications from K-12 teachers in the county’s four school districts for nature-related projects outside their classroom windows.

In 2021, FOTP joined a partnership with Putnam Parks & Pathways and the CVB to establish the Putnam County Parks Board and collaborate on creating the county’s five-year master plan for outdoor recreation.  The Putnam County Council established the County Parks Board and, in April 2022, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources approved the county’s plan submitted by the Parks Board.

The four organizations now share a staff and headquarters inside the Putnam County Visitors Center to implement the plan’s goals as a collaborative effort with the Putnam County Board of Commissioners, the County Council and the Putnam County Community Foundation.

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