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Ballard solicits business help in aid of Indy Parks

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About 500 leaders from 144 local companies were set to join Mayor Greg Ballard on Thursday at the downtown Westin Indianapolis hotel for a lunch benefiting the Indianapolis Parks Foundation.

With the help of Indy Parks and Recreation Director Stuart Lowry and Indianapolis Parks Foundation Executive Director Cindy Porteous, Ballard will encourage the executives to step up their corporate partnerships and contributions in support of local parks, which have seen their budgets slashed during the recession.

In 2009, Indy Parks had a $33 million annual budget. For 2010, Ballard cut it by $5.8 million, or nearly one-fifth.

To shore up the gap, Indy Parks is increasingly relying on financial support and personal volunteerism from the business community. The Indianapolis Parks Foundation has already raised $170,000 in corporate donations in advance of today’s lunch, its primary annual fund-raising event. Today, Porteous said, she hopes to raise at least another $30,000. Indianapolis Power & Light Co. is the event’s title sponsor.

To emphasize the impact of even the smallest gifts, Porteous said, Ballard will ask audience members to contribute $100 each. An IndyParks or Parks Foundation employee will sit at each table to share specifics about how donations will be applied. For example, Porteous said, $100 will buy 10 new basketballs, 85 seedling trees, 13 swimming-pool kickboards, or pay for the transportation of 30 children for a summer fieldtrip.

“I wish I could tell you $100 would build a greenway trail. But every dollar counts,” Porteous said. “We want to make it real, make it tangible.”

Thanks to the business community’s help, the Parks Foundation is in a good position to assist the struggling Parks Department. It now has nearly $10 million in total assets, Porteous said, thanks largely to a $7.3 million grant in December from the Lilly Endowment.

Local businesses have also offered assistance. Mark Howell, president of locally-based cell phone distributor Brightpoint Inc., will be on hand at the lunch to receive recognition for his company’s contributions. So will ProLiance Energy Vice President David Pentzien and IPL Vice President Greg Fennig.

The Parks Foundation is looking for any help it can get from businesses, Porteous said, whether big or small. It will manage 52 capital projects in local parks over the next two years.

“We cannot be everything to Indy Parks. We cannot solve all their problems,” she said. “But we have enough $100 ideas to match every dollar that’s given in the room today.”

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