Don Lebold, owner of Town & Country Bowling Center, got a surprise visit from representatives of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation Thursday, Oct. 30.
Krina Lee, executive director of SKEF, was there to inform Lebold that Town & Country would be honored with the fifth annual Crystal Apple Business Partnership Award.
Lebold and his wife, Ann, will be honored at the Crystal Apple Awards Thursday, Nov. 13.
In addition to providing one of the most productive college scholarship programs in the state and sponsoring McNary High School’s bowling teams, the couple created the annual Turnaround Achievement Awards.
Turnaround awards honor students for making successful changes in their lives and approach to school.
Since the program’s inception, more than 350 students have been recognized with Turnaround Awards.
It’s somewhat of a surprise Chicago music wasn’t suddenly playing.
After all, members the Hidden Creek Neighborhood Association were being hailed as the inspiration. Or maybe it was a Saturday in the park?
JT Hager and Frank Salerno came to last month’s Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting to give an update on Hidden Creek Park in their neighborhood. Several years ago, neighbors decided to pitch together and tackled problems with their park, getting a bit of help from city employees along the way.
Hager and Salerno came to the Parks Board to ask about getting help under the matching grant program being administered for the first time this fiscal year.
“We have been doing some working and cleaning up,” Hager said. “You set aside some money to mow. The comments from the neighborhood are thank you, thank you, thank you. We’ve been clearing out the area. People are very thankful. We’re seeing increased use of the walkway. I thought you should know some people appreciate what you do.”
Hager noted there is a limit to what neighbors can do in terms of keeping up with maintenance at the park.
“With a limited budget, it’s a challenge,” he said.
Brandon Smith, current chair of the Parks Board, was glad to see Hager and Salerno.
“You’re the reason we have this grant program,” said Smith, who won his uncontested Keizer City Council election on Tuesday.
Salerno noted he got roped into being chair of the subcommittee for parks in Hidden Creek and thus submitted a grant request for the park.
“Well, we’ve been waiting for you guys,” Smith said. “Your group is the main reason we even advocated for this program.”
Neighbors came to a Parks Board meeting in August 2013 to explain the problems at their park, showing off a large chunk of poison ivy that had been eating away at their trees. The partnership between the city and neighbors – who pitched in to do more than their fair share of work – was used by Smith as the model for the matching grant program.
Parks Board member Roland Herrera, who also won his uncontested council election on Tuesday, lives in the Hidden Creek neighborhood and testified about the work being done.
“I’ve been watching them the past year,” Herrera said. “They’ve done a wonderful job. They’ve increased the use (of the path) and it looks great. If you haven’t seen it, you ought to check it out.”
Salerno’s original request was for the Parks Board to pay half of a $495 bill, the estimated cost of having a large amount of debris from a wooded area hauled away. Hager estimated neighbors had put in close to 50 hours clearing debris.
Smith and Parks Board member Richard Walsh discussed what was being sought monetarily.
“They’re not asking for $495,” Walsh said.
Not missing a beat, Hager piped up.
“We are now!” he said with a laugh.
Walsh amended the request to the neighbors asking for $495. William Criteser asked if that lined up with the spirit of the program, which calls for applicants to cover half of the costs.
“This way we pay for the whole project,” Criteser said.
Smith noted the amount of volunteer labor put in by neighbors.
“They have put in a significant amount of volunteer labor that would otherwise be done by city staff,” Smith said. “We want to help them.”
Robert Johnson, parks supervisor for Keizer, estimated it would have cost the city about $750 to subcontract out the work, not counting the disposal costs. Hager pointed out some neighbors have bought their own equipment to use on the work.
“We want to do the best bang for the buck we can do,” Walsh said. “When you do 60 hours of labor for free, that’s a huge bang for the buck. You guys have already put in hundreds of hours total. You’re one of the most active groups at cleaning up parks. You gave us thanks, but we’re thankful to you for all you’ve done for our parks.”