Mount Union College Student Aids in Securing Grant Money for Alliance Parks and Recreation

April 22, 2010

Mount Union College senior Erin Schwing may not be from Alliance ' in fact she hails from the state of Pennsylvania ' but this minor fact did not sway her from participating in a project to benefit the community she has called home for the past four years.

Erin Schwing

As part of a course project required for her major in sport management, Schwing assisted in writing a grant proposal for the Alliance Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands. Now the residents living near Hester Mini Park will enjoy the benefits of a revitalized playground.

The grant-writing project fulfilled an assignment given by Dr. James Thoma, professor of sport management, in his Financing Sport and Recreation course. According to Thoma, the students enrolled in the course were charged with writing a grant proposal, with the hopes that they could do so for an agency that would actually submit the proposal for funding.

'This project fits nicely with the philosophy of the Department of Human Performance and Sport Management,' said Thoma. 'We believe that real, hands-on experience better prepares students for internships, as well as full-time employment after graduation.'

According to Thoma, students select a variety of projects to fulfill this assignment. Schwing wanted to work on a project that would result in an actual grant submission, so she turned to Alliance's Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands.

'I had interned with this department last spring as part of another sport management course and continued working over the summer at the Robertson Youth Center,' said Schwing. 'When I got this most recent course assignment, I immediately considered offering my services to the department again.'

'Since she first interned with us, anytime we can find something for Erin to work on, we call her,' said Kim Cox, director of parks, recreation and public lands. 'She did a really great job for us at the Robertson Youth Center, and when she contacted us about her grant assignment, we were more than happy to accept her help.'

The grant that Schwing and Cox worked on was the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a flexible program offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs. According to the grant's website, the CDBG began in 1974 and is one of the longest continuously run programs at HUD.

As part of a long-term project to replace park equipment and increase safety in Alliance's park system, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands has applied for the same grant in the past, sometimes receiving funding and other times not.

'We have five mini parks in our public park system and all of them were developed in the 1970s,' said Cox. 'Nothing has been replaced in these parks since then ' equipment has either been removed or painted to keep the parks safe and friendly. We have been working to update each mini-park.'

Hester Mini Park will be the third of five in Alliance's park system to receive updates within the last few years. Thompson Snodgrass Park and Maple Beech Park have also been revitalized as a result of receiving CDBG funding.

'Hester Mini Park is currently run down and the equipment is unsafe,' said Schwing. 'With the $18,000 of funding that the city will receive from this grant, the process to refurbish the park can begin.'

According to Cox, the revitalization will include a new playground piece for the park and an entire revamping of the area. With the help of Alliance's Friends of the Park, additional pieces will be added with completion of the project planned for fall of next year.

'This grant funding is very beneficial to our department because we simply do not have the financial resources to replace the parks on our own,' said Cox. Recent city budget cuts have made the challenge all the more difficult.

Schwing was certainly happy that she could lend a helping hand to the department and said she is 'saddened that they are taking such a huge budget hit because they work hard and do great things for the community.' She also appreciated the first-hand experience with which the project provided her, which is what Mount Union's sport management program is all about.

'I really learned how deep you have to dig down and thoroughly explain what is it is that you need when applying for grant funding,' said Schwing. 'It's just one of the many ways I have gained invaluable hands-on experience in my major. The sport management program is not just about taking tests. Learning in the classroom is important, but actually doing something is what counts.'

Schwing's hands-on experience has already taken her a long way professionally. Upon graduation, she will join the staff of the Orlando Magic as a sales representative, a job she secured through networking at Mount Union's Sport Sales Workshop, organized annually by the sport management program.

'Erin, as a student, has really blossomed in her senior year,' said Thoma. 'When she came back to campus in the fall, it was obvious that she was stepping up and taking leadership roles. She takes on the hard assignments and really assumed responsibility for her own life after graduation.'

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