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January 24, 2013

Listening in: CCCF solicits Walton ideas, awards grant

$1,200 to go toward project to be determined by local residents.

WALTON — More than 60 turned out at the Cass County Community Foundation’s Walton gathering, and in return, CCCF promised more than $1,200 for a local grant.

In an effort to continue its service to communities in Cass County through grants, scholarships and charity, the foundation held a public meeting in Walton Wednesday night to take in suggestions from the residents on how it can help better the community.

Foundation President Deanna Crispen said it was the first time in the organization’s 25-year history that a town hall meeting of the kind had been held.

Addressing the crowd at Walton Christian Church, she said idea to hold such a meeting arose because the foundation wanted to pay as much attention to smaller communities throughout Cass County as it does to larger ones.

“We know that things is Walton and Twelve Mile and Galveston and Royal Center are at times different from the things that we do in Logansport,” Crispen said. “It’s really important to listen to all the voices in our community, because the community belongs to all of us.”

For each person who attended, the foundation allotted $20 in grant money toward a project in the community. The main purpose of the meeting, Crispen explained, was to get a sense of what kinds of projects locals wanted to pursue.

Getting up from their seats one at a time to address Crispen and the audience, citizens suggested things like playground equipment for parks, extending and repairing old sidewalks, and building a walking trail around Memorial Park.

When it was Walton resident Heather Shafer’s turn to speak, she suggested improvements and additions to the baseball and softball diamonds in the area. The fields could use paved parking lots, new bleachers, new batting cages, safety nets and an updated sound system, she explained.

Shafer, whose children have played baseball and softball, commended the foundation for its assistance in getting the area a girls’ softball diamond in the first place. She said the addition of lights to the field would further improve the players’ experience.

“There are no lights, so they can’t play past a certain time,” she said.

Mel Wiemer said the town needed a skate park. It would be a safe alternative, he said, for kids who often resort to skating through other public parts of town, posing a danger to themselves and others.

“All the kids do is ride skateboards,” Wiemer said. “They need a skate park so they can go out and everybody can have a safe place to ride.”

Revitalizing old buildings and creating a community center were also among the suggestions.

Walton Lions Club President Gordon Southern said it may be possible to work out something with a building lot that the Lions Club owns, along with building lots owned by the city, to build a community center.

“We’ve been slowly amassing these things so we have a place to do something,” Southern said. “Whether it’s a community center or whatever it may be, we’ll at least have a chance to try to do something with it.”

Crispen said she and the foundation hope to form a committee of Walton residents soon to further assess exactly how the night’s grant would be spent.

Joyce Eshelman, a former chair of the foundation, praised the ideas that came up and encouraged those at the meeting to keep thinking of more.

“I know it’s kind of overwhelming,” she told the audience, “but as you mull things over, something will hit you and you’ll think, that would be excellent for the community foundation.”

Eshelman added there would always be someone from the foundation to listen to their ideas. “The door is literally always open and the telephone and the website and the emails — we’re the conduit. It’s really easy to get ideas out there.”

In order to continue its outreach efforts, Crispen said the foundation plans on holding a similar meeting in Galveston this spring.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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