Roughly a year after announcing the formation of a nonprofit foundation to help ensure all families can participate in the village’s recreation programming, officials confirmed that the new Brookfield Parks & Recreation Foundation is now an IRS-certified 501c3 charity capable of soliciting and receiving tax-deductible donations.
Julie Narimatsu, president of the foundation and a Brookfield Parks and Recreation Board commissioner, said the organization received its 501c3 status in March.
“Our mission really supports the parks and rec department, and we do that by raising supplemental funding to use primarily for the elimination of fees to support families who need financial assistance,” Narimatsu told village trustees during a presentation at the April 25 village board meeting.
In the past the Brookfield Department of Parks and Recreation has had limited capacity to aid those needing financial assistance to help defray the cost of programming. Funds are especially needed for the before- and after-school STARS program and summer camps where tuition costs can be a barrier.
The Brookfield Oddfellows Lodge typically has donated between $500 and $1,000 for recreation program “scholarships,” but the need far outstrips that amount, according to recreation Director Stevie Ferrari.
“STARS and summer camps are the two primary programs where tuition can impact families,” Ferrari said in a phone interview. “The bottom line is this will help us serve more families, create equity and expand our reach. This effort is near and dear to my heart.”
Narimatsu took time on April 26 to introduce the foundation’s full board of directors. Kyle Whitehead, who is a fellow recreation commissioner and also a founding member of the nonprofit, serves as the organization’s secretary. He works in the nonprofit sector.
Another founding member and the organization’s treasurer is Paul Cozza, whose long career in accounting has included serving for decades on the board of the nonprofit Crisis Line of Will County. Cozza is Ferrari’s father.
Also on the foundation’s board are Brookfield residents Alisha Garcia Flores, who also has a good deal of experience working with nonprofits; Beth Dannon, whose background is in marketing, event planning and human resources; and Natalie Laczek who background encompasses business law and fundraising. She is presently associate director for foundation and corporate relations at the University of Chicago.
Whitehead told the Landmark that early on the decision was made to focus all of the nonprofits efforts on assisting those in financial need participate in programming rather than raise funds for things like capital projects.
“It’s a big part of our pitch to potential donors and sponsors,” Whitehead said. “We tell them, we can put your money to work right away. For our first few initial donors, that has resonated.”
Compared to the $500 to $1,000 annually the recreation department received in the past from the Oddfellows, in just a month or so since being certified as a 501c3, the Brookfield Parks & Recreation Foundation has raised more than $5,000 through individual and corporate matching.
With registration for summer camps happening now, that money could be used immediately to help families in financial need.
The recreation department serves not only village residents but people from outside of Brookfield, particularly in its STARS program. That program serves children in both Brookfield-LaGrange Park 95, where the 2021 Illinois School Report Card indicates about 16 percent of families are classified as low-income, and Lyons-Brookfield School District 103, where 75.6 percent of families are classified as low-income.
“Those numbers really floored me,” Whitehead said. “It’s difficult to see those numbers and how many families are struggling. The STARS program, in particular, reaches beyond the borders of Brookfield.”
The foundation’s board is now in the process of refining their fundraising strategies and formulating ways to raise awareness to maximize its impact.
In the meantime, anyone who would like to connect with the foundation to find out how to donate can email firstname.lastname@example.org.