San Jose’s Local Park Heroes

I received a phone call last year from a resident who lived near Almaden Winery Park. She told me that she wanted to plant some rose trees in the park, and that she had been referred to San Jose Parks Foundation for help. I asked if she was seeking money and she said “no.” She said the neighbors would pay for the roses, but by going through the foundation, the donations from the neighbors would be tax-deductible.

We immediately conferred on what to do and how to proceed. Being a “fiscal agent” is one of the services we provide for community groups. It frees them from having to set up a non-profit business and let’s them concentrate on the project they want to accomplish.

Long story short, within two hours Almaden Winery Park’s Rose project was up on our website, where anyone could make an online donation that took a few minutes at most. The next day I spoke with the neighborhood association president, and we created an email with links to the website that could be sent to all of the neighbors. 

Within two weeks, the neighborhood raised over $2,000 through a lot small donations. Then they planted the rose trees and sent the receipts to the foundation for reimbursement. I wish every project we did was this quick and easy, but the point of this story is that it illustrates what we can do when we work together. If we are going to maintain a first-class park system, we need more people like this.
I thank and congratulate the two leaders of this enterprise, Arline Stepovich (gardener and mastermind) and Nick Labosky, the association president.

The new paradigm for our parks is this kind of custodial care, the kind of truly sustainable project that exists when residents work together toward a common goal. Given how much parks impact our economic well-being, facilitate our individual and community health and protect our environment, this kind of citizenship creates a synergy that produces far more as a collective endeavor than the parts of the project would indicate.

We are hearing from others in the community who want to see their parks protected and are engaging the neighborhood for the common good. San Jose Parks Foundation is a facilitator and a catalyst for this new paradigm. We want to engage people in the basic discussion of what is possible and then work with neighborhoods and small groups to create practical strategies for achieving the goals and objectives.

I also salute the Martin-Fontana Parks Association for the activism it exhibited in reaction to the prospective loss of dozens of beautiful oaks. Their people went beyond simply complaining and they formed a group of dedicated residents who are re-imagining their parks and re-planting. They have formed a partnership with PG&E to make certain that tree cutting that must be done is carried out with wisdom and minimal disturbance of the parks.

James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at[email protected]/408.893.PARK.

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