Mom-power, clever picketing at play

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Group co-founders Lori Bartlett and Kristen Thomas display their playground goal.

Last year, when Willistown Township rejected the request of some local mothers to fund playground equipment for an area park, the group decided to mobilize and make it happen themselves. They formed “Friends of Greentree Park” and have been working ever since to revitalize an under-utilized community park near the town centers of Malvern and Paoli, said Danielle Haugh, one of the organizers.
"The township does not have a complete playground with parking, green space, fences, bathrooms, swings and playground equipment for the 2-through-12-year-old crowd," said co-founder Kristin Thomas, a mother of three. "Local moms currently drive to Chesterbrook, West Chester, and Downingtown to find these amenities."

The group, often with toddlers in tow, has held fund-raisers — the new equipment is expected to cost nearly $50,000 — and solicited community input for the park’s design. Lori Bartlett, a mother of three, said the response has been gratifying. "So many people pitched in to make this happen, from the people who put spare change in donation cans around town, to our very own husbands, who did what we asked of them without complaint,” she said.
Last month, after raising $19,000, the mothers were recognized by the Willistown Township Board of Supervisors, who kicked in $25,000. “Our board of supervisors believes this is a model partnership between the community, the families who will use the new park equipment, and the taxpayers," stated Hugh Murray, the township manager.

In the spring, Greentree Park's makeover will include a Little Tikes Commercial Playset with two climbing walls, three slide variations, two different types of "monkey bars," several interactive/pretend play panels, and a "moving" bridge. To complete the transformation, a few benches, small equipment and barrier fence are still needed.
Currently, the group is engaging in some creative picketing. Going business to business in Malvern, Paoli, and Newtown Square, the mothers hope to reach the overall goal of $50,000 by selling engraved — and tax-deductible — fence pickets for $100 apiece. For information, email friendsofgreentreepark@gmail.com or visit www.momsclubmalvern.org or www.willistownparks.org.

"It's been an incredible and rewarding experience, and the positive response we have gotten from our neighbors has been amazing," said Bartlett. "More importantly, I am so glad we had the opportunity to show our children how to make positive changes in the world. Not only will they enjoy the fruits of our labor, but they have learned from our example about volunteering and giving back to the community."