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American Water Charitable Foundation disburses $400,000 for Nature-based plays spaces in local communities


In 2014, the American Water Charitable Foundation disbursed $384,000 through grants that build, support and strengthen community-based play spaces whose central theme is Nature. This year too, it continues its stewardship by giving grants that total to $400,000 so as to continue educating local communities on building a bond with Mother Nature through local nature-based play spaces.

Created by American Water, which is one of the United States’ biggest publicly traded waste water utility and water company, the American Water Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organisation, has decided to provide three grants that support local plays that centres and hovers around Mother Nature, applicable to all playwrights across the U.S.

These grants are being routed through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), as part of their ‘Building Better Communities’ signature grant program. Although the funds are being disbursed by the American Water Charitable Foundation, they are however being administered by NRPA.

Through this philanthropic gesture – Building Better Communities – the NRPA aims to enhance the quality of life in the communities the company is generally associated with. Since parks are critical to preserving our natural resources vis-à-vis community life, the program specifically concentrates on building and enhancing such benefits for the local communities. By building and using nature-based playgrounds, NRPA hopes the communities will better connect to the environment. It will also provide education on environmental leadership programs that will enhance practices related to the usage of water.

There have been totally 117 applications for the grants from which three recipients will be selected. The plays will be selected on a host of criteria such educative value, proximity to American Water’s Service areas, play value, relevance of the play to the RFP project parameters, opportunities for American Water employee volunteer involvement, usage of natural play materials, and the construction of an actual children’s play area.

The three recipients which have matched these criteria are as follows:
•    Magic Island based out of Charleston, W.Va. It will receive $150,000 so that it can construct a children’s spray and/or splash pad utilizing a recirculating system, so as to recycle the usage of water. This project will introduce an interactive water feature to a park that has its genesis in the natural process of silt deposition at the confluence of two rivers.
•    Washington “Reed” Park based out of Gary, Ind. will receive $125,000 so that it can develop a nature-based playground that integrates educational play about storm water, as well as functions as green infrastructure to slow and cleanse the water returning to Grand Calumet, Lake Michigan, and Little Calumet Rivers.
•    Von Neida Park from Camden, N.J. will receive $125,000 so that it can construct and design a natural ‘play scape’ in the park. The design will be such that participants can personalise the play area to the community surrounding the park, including developing signage and illustrations that address storm water management and flooding.
“Creating an experience with nature and natural elements that is both fun and educational is a recipe for creating a life-long appreciation for the environment. This is always a goal for community parks and recreation, and for these three communities having the support of the American Water Charitable Foundation to create new nature-based experiences will elevate their ability to give more people the chance to interact with nature in a unique and memorable way,” said Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of NRPA.

“We are excited to give these three communities an opportunity to foster a greater sense of appreciation for the environment in a fun and engaging way. The projects will not only benefit the children and families in these communities, but they will also encourage the continued viability of and appreciation for our nation's water resources. The Building Better Communitiesprogram supports American Water’s core values of community stewardship and environmental sustainability, and aligns with areas of importance to the company’s employees, including child welfare and education,” added Debra Vernon, Manager, Corporate Responsibility and President of the American Water Charitable Foundation.

Each of the three nature-based play spaces will be in collaboration with the active partnership with a community. Annually this program aims to support several of these types of projects. In 2014, it had provided four grants totalling $384,000 to Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority in Scranton, Pa., the Brunswick Redevelopment and Revitalization Committee in Brunswick, Mo., The City of Belleville, Ill., and the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District in Camarillo, California.