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Donations swing momentum for park improvements

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COLERIDGE – After more than three years on a fundraising merry-go-round, the Coleridge Area Fund is sliding its way into new playground equipment at the village park next year.

Updating the village’s park equipment has long been identified as a need, and fundraising began in November 2019, said Annette Sudbeck, chairwoman of CAF.

“In some ways, it seems like a long time; in other ways, it seems like just a short time ago,” she said.

An All-Class Reunion and other fundraising events were planned, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, waylaying any efforts for in-person fundraising functions.

CAF pivoted and started the fundraising effort by reaching out through social media, mailings and the Cedar County News.

Three matching challenges helped spur community donations.

The first – a $7,000 matching challenge – was made by the Jeff Hansen family in memory of Robyn Hansen.

“This gave a solid footing for raising funds,” Sudbeck said.

Another anonymous challenge to match $25,000 was made. Contributors were able to meet that threshold following the All-Class Reunion that was finally held last July.

Another matching challenge of $15,000 was provided by the Tip Froendt family.

“Both of these challenges have helped advance the project to the point where the park improvements are possible and enabled CAF to apply for grant funding,” Sudbeck said.

Nebraska Game and Parks recently awarded $155,000 in Land and Water Conservation Funds for the project, which match local contributions raised for the project so far.

The grant was announced and celebrated at CAF’s fundraising meal earlier in February. More than 100 people attended to support the park project.

Along with the Nebraska Game and Parks grant, the Sherwood Foundation, dedicated to inclusiveness in play, gave more than $93,000 in support of the project.

Money will be used to purchase and install accessible and inclusive park equipment and surfacing, and to replace existing equipment near the shelter house at the park. Some of the new playground pieces include a play tower with expanded components for ages 5-12; a play area for younger children, ages 2-5; a climbing piece; swings; slides; musical components; benches; and interactive play panels.

The Village of Coleridge will update concrete sidewalks for access to the new playground.

The total cost of equipment and installation is estimated at $375,000 and does not include the removal of existing equipment or engineering.

“There will be additional fundraisers as we’ve seen cost increases across the board to the initially planned project,” Sudbeck said.

CAF will also be soliciting volunteers to carry out project installation.

“The Coleridge Area Fund is excited to see this project come to life for the benefit of the community,” Sudbeck said.

CAF, an affiliate of the Nebraska Community Foundation, is a community-led effort to use philanthropy to sustain and build the community of Coleridge and the surrounding area. The fund works to increase charitable giving opportunities.

Contributions to the CAF Endowment Fund will provide long-term support of community wants and needs.

Other area communities were recently awarded money from Nebraska Game and Parks, including $250,000 to Wausa to develop a walking and biking trail through the village’s Gladstone Park, and more than $90,000 to Randolph to develop a walking and biking trail through the city’s Randolph Area Veterans Memorial Park.