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City Parks & Rec. raises funds to rebuild structure lost to fire

July 18, 2013

PAWTUCKET— It's not quite the same as an old-fashioned “barn raising,” but close. Thanks to an outpouring of business and community support, plans are moving ahead for replacing a burnt out summer camp storage facility at Slater Park with something bigger and better.
An early morning fire on Dec. 30, 2012 destroyed the storage facility and all of its contents, along with an administrative and counselor training office. Among the items lost were arts and crafts supplies, games, and sporting goods used for the city's annual summer camp program.
City Parks and Recreation Director John Blais said that he and Camp Director Tasha Campion initially fretted most over the loss of camp supplies. They put out a call for donations and set up a Facebook page seeking replacement items for the summer camp program. Donations flowed in, of supplies and sporting goods as well as financial contributions, and the idea began to take shape that perhaps enough money could be raised to rebuild the camp facility as well, Blais said.
A fundraising committee was formed and the cause was given a name, Project Renew. Blais said he and the committee members began thinking about what kind of facility would benefit the city most, and decided on a covered pavilion. This type of structure would provide a place where activities could be held rain or shine, and would be enjoyed not only by the summer campers but the entire community.
The committee has held several fundraising events for the building project, and local businesses have also taken up the cause. Last March's “Night Out” at the LeFoyer Club, featuring a band, raffles, and an auction, was very successful, Blais said, and Sullivan's Publick House later joined with Foolproof Brewery to do a “pint night” fundraiser.
Blais said the companies that have made donations to the summer camp project in either goods, services or financial contributions are too numerous to name. “Local businesses and people in the community have just been great,” he stated. He said about $6,000 has been raised so far, and donations are still being welcomed.
The latest event planned by Project Renew is a golf tournament scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 27 at the Swansea County Club (this was rescheduled from a previous June 21 date). There is an 8:30 a.m. check-in time and a 10 a.m. shotgun start.
Several options are available for those interested in playing in the tournament or sponsoring the event. Details of the golf tournament, along with updated registration forms are available at the Slater Park Office, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by viewing the Project Renew Facebook page.
Blais said the committee would like to have the open-air pavilion tied into a new meeting/training room and storage area for the camp equipment and supplies. The structures will be built on the site of the old facility, which is situated next to the dog park and the near to the park's carousel. He said he doesn't yet have a cost estimate for the project, but would be meeting soon with several architectural firms who are submitting drawings under the bid process.
Blais said there is room for the new structures at the existing site, which includes an old caretaker's trailer, a dilapidated greenhouse and a wooded area that has become somewhat of a dumping ground for old fencing and other items used by the Department of Public Works. “It's kind of an eyesore there now. And we want to try to incorporate parts of the greenhouse into the new design, if we can,” he said.
Having a covered pavilion, Blais said, will allow for summer camp activities, dance and exercise classes and other park events to be held even on rainy days. “Now, when there is rain, we have to cancel summer camp,” he said. He noted that the first summer parks concert, which was rained out, could have gone on under the pavilion. Also, the new training/meeting room will provide space for exercise classes and other gatherings throughout the winter. “We'll be able to take care of a lot more of our programs all year long,” said Blais.
Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Project Renew effort to build a covered pavilion and training/meeting room in Slater Park can do so by making out a check to: Pawtucket Parks and Recreation Department. Checks can be dropped off or mailed to the Pawtucket Parks and Recreation Office, Slater Memorial Park, Pawtucket, RI 02861.
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