Mayor Chris Beutler today said the funds provided by residents and community partners to two donation programs - Lincoln Cares and 2 for Trees - continue to fund important City projects.
Since its inception in 2003, Lincoln Cares has raised nearly $1.4 million through donations, matching funds and sponsors. The program allows customers of the Lincoln Electric System (LES) to add $1 to their monthly bill payments for Parks and Recreation, Lincoln City Libraries and Aging Partners.
Since its inception in 2012, 2 for Trees has raised just over $300,000 through grants and donations from Lincoln Water System (LWS) customers. The program allows LWS customers to add $2 to their bill payments to support public trees along streets, in parks, along trails, around public schools and in golf courses.
"Because of our generous residents, sponsors and partners, these two programs have made a real difference in our community," Beutler said. "These important public-private programs have allowed us to make $1.7 million in improvements across our community. I want to thank all those who have helped to fund projects that would not have been possible without Lincoln Cares and 2 for Trees. We value our partnerships with the Lincoln Electric System and the Lincoln Water System, and we appreciate their commitment to strengthening the quality of City services."
Five Lincoln media organizations will provide in-kind advertising and promotion for the two programs for the seventh consecutive year -- KOLN/KGIN- TV; KLKN-TV; Alpha Media; Broadcast House; and the Lincoln Journal Star.
LES customers can support Lincoln Cares by enrolling at LES.com/lcdonate or calling 402-475-4211. The $1 donation is automatically included on the LES bill each month, and customers can discontinue their automatic donation at any time by calling LES.
To date, nearly 3,900 LES customers have enrolled in Lincoln Cares. From February 2003 through April 2016, the program has collected $826,510 in donations from LES customers. Nearly $600,000 in additional funds has been contributed through direct donations to the City and from local foundations, businesses and neighborhood associations.
Programs and projects funded by Lincoln Cares are selected based on input from the Lincoln Cares Advisory Board, which includes representatives from Parks and Recreation, Lincoln City Libraries and Aging Partners as well as the community. This year's projects include public pickleball courts, the Haines Branch Prairie Corridor, fitness equipment for Aging Partners, upgrades for library meeting spaces, School Family Nights at Lincoln City Libraries and Parker's Pals Scholarships. (A list of new projects and sponsors follows this release.)
"We're grateful for Lincoln Cares and our project sponsors," said Pat Leach, Director of Lincoln City Libraries. "The libraries' meeting rooms receive heavy use, and the Lincoln Cares funds will go toward refreshing and updating those spaces. We're especially excited that Lincoln Cares will also support School Family Nights, community-based activities that introduce new families to the library and celebrate learning and literacy. All of this supports children's success in school and Lincoln's success as a community."
"Aging Partners Fitness center has become a very important part of my life," said Lincoln resident Neal Sandoz. "Two and a half years ago, I had a five-way bypass surgery. The surgeon who did the operation told me that had I not been working out, I most likely would not have survived the heart attack. Thanks to the funding Aging Partners has received, they have been able to provide the necessary programs and state of the art equipment that enables us to maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercise and good eating habits. The certified trainers at Aging Partners Health and Fitness go out of their way to provide fitness classes and help people learn proper use of equipment according to each individual's ability. We are truly blessed to have this facility and the people who help set up training programs for us."
"Pickleball is important to the community because it promotes friendship, while having fun and gaining physical fitness," said Bill Roehrs of Lincoln Pickleball. "It is a game that is easy to learn, inexpensive to play and promotes good health and exercise whether you are a youngster or a senior citizen. These public courts are a big step because Lincoln now has a home with multiple dedicated pickleball courts. Plans to have free lessons for beginners, drill sessions for more advanced players and regularly scheduled play time are being developed."
Through April 2016, LWS customers have donated $192,408 to the 2 for Trees program. Additional grant funding has also been received from various partners. This year, the program received $20,000 in grant funding through the Sustainable Schoolyard Partnership Grant sponsored by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. In-kind donations have come from Finke Gardens and Nursery; Campbell's Nurseries & Garden Centers; Earl May Nursery and Garden Centers (North and South); Hofeling Enterprises: "The Tree Guys;" Lanoha Nurseries; Nebraska Nursery and Garden Center; and Eagle Nursery.
In 2015, 2 for Trees funded trees along key entryway corridors as well as vouchers to help residents plant street trees in their neighborhoods. This year, 2 for Trees will be matched with a grant and City funds to provide trees along major streets in all four quadrants and in parks as well as street trees around 12 public schools. The program will also continue to assist with equipment and materials for tree establishment and watering. Lynn Johnson, Director of Lincoln Parks and Recreation, said the City is planting a wide variety of trees to ensure a resilient community forest now and for future generations.
"Lincoln's public trees are valued community assets," Johnson said. "With the coming impact of Emerald Ash Borer on our public ash trees it is more important than ever to be proactive about planting public trees. We thank generous donors who add $2 to their LWS payments to support planting and establishing trees along our streets and in our parks for the future. We hope others will join in this community effort to sustain Lincoln's community forest.
The public can donate at 2forTrees.org. Donations to both two programs also may be mailed to 2740 "A" Street, Lincoln, NE 68502.
Public Pickleball Courts: A group of local pickleball enthusiasts partnered with the Lincoln Parks Foundation to raise funds to convert two tennis courts in Peterson Park to six pickleball courts for public use. The campaign goal includes resurfacing, nets and a maintenance endowment. When completed in June, these will be the first dedicated public pickleball courts in Lincoln. Partners: Lincoln Pickleball, Lincoln Parks Foundation.
Haines Branch Prairie Corridor: The Prairie Corridor is a 13-mile corridor that will link Pioneers Park with Spring Creek Prairie. The project will enhance and preserve tall grass prairie and provide recreational and educational connections and economic development opportunities. Project partners: Lincoln Parks Foundation, Prairie Corridor Partnership.
Parker's Pals: This scholarship program provides financial support for children of low-income families. It includes pool admissions, swimming lessons, and participation in the swim/dive league and allows children to participate in youth and sports programs offered by Lincoln Parks and Recreation. Project partners: Culver's, Lincoln Parks Foundation, Olsson Associates.
Fitness Equipment for Aging Partners: This includes new and replacement fitness equipment for the Forever Strong Health and Fitness Program offered to adults age 60 and up in Lincoln and Lancaster County. The Aging Partners Health and Fitness Center is at 233 S. 10th Street. Project Partner: Seniors Foundation.
Upgrades for Library Meeting Spaces: Several libraries offer meeting room spaces free for public use, and libraries use these same spaces for their own special events. This will allow for replacement of furnishings and upgrades in equipment so that they remain the "family room of the community" and continue to nurture learning, connection and community. Project partner: Foundation for Lincoln City Libraries.
School Family Nights at Lincoln City Libraries: These special open-house events provide an opportunity for families from neighborhood schools to receive library cards, meet their librarians and become more familiar with what's available at the public library. Project partner: Foundation for Lincoln City Libraries.
Successful projects funded by the Lincoln Cares program include: