By Lindsay Doty
Whether it’s a serene bike ride on the Vandalia Trail in Plainfield or letting the dogs run free at Cardinal Bark Park in Brownsburg, Hendricks County’s public parks are a community favorite with something for everyone.
Playgrounds and splash pads draw young families. Green spaces invite outdoor adventures, sports and community events.
“We believe parks and public spaces are vital to our community, now more than ever,” said Katy Cummings, the new executive director of the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County (PFOHC).
The nonprofit is a fundraising partner of Hendricks County Parks and Recreation that strives to find financial resources for park enhancements, expansions and programs. The organization recently expanded to include fundraising for all parks in the county, and Cummings is excited to get to work.
“We want to make sure the parks stay clean and safe and updated, and that takes additional support to do,” she said.
The experienced nonprofit leader will guide an 11-member board of volunteers (via Zoom meetings for now) who are equally passionate about maintaining and enhancing local green space.
“We are committed to the future growth and sustainability of parks in Hendricks County, and based on Katy’s extensive leadership experience, we are confident she will help us meet that mission,” said Matt Browning, PFOHC board chair.
Cummings comes to the job with two decades of experience in nonprofit fundraising.
She has served as a leader in various roles for nonprofits in substance abuse and mental health, child welfare advocacy and higher education.
She has led philanthropic efforts with organizations like Dove Recovery House for Women in Marion County, where she currently serves as a board chair.
“My background is in fundraising. A big part of this is strengthening our fundraising program,” said Cummings who says she was first introduced to raising money during her beloved Girl Scout days.
“We had to use our resources wisely. That’s something I try to remember,” she said.
For the outdoorsy Brownsburg mother of twin boys (a regular at the baseball diamonds at Arbuckle Acres), the opportunity to continue her passion for nonprofit fundraising and be closer to home was a win-win.
During her first few weeks on the job, local parks have been empty except for the occasional dedicated runner or sledding-hill seeker. Cummings has been busy getting acclimated with park needs and is looking ahead at spring and summer projects.
The PFOHC’s main moneymaker is the Summer Fun Run Series held starting in May. Being outside, it was one of the few events in 2020 that was unscathed by COVID-19, although it was virtual on runners’ and walkers’ own time instead of weekly large gatherings. The event raised around $33,000 for park projects last year.
The money supported various enhancements, including a community garden at Schamahorn Park in Pittsboro and refurbishment of the Blast-Off Playground at Williams Park in Brownsburg.
“We will do that event again. My experience so far in Hendricks County is that people care about this community,” she said. “I think part of their daily lives is utilizing that resource.”
She wants to focus more efforts on individual long-term donors, not just corporation sponsors.
“That is how you sustain so we can do more to help the parks,” Cummings said.
Cummings approaches her fundraising with the same can-do attitude.
“Every mission is important. If people can give, they still will. If they can’t, they won’t. My philosophy is that we just keep asking,” said Cummings.
Public parks have seen an uptick in demand since the pandemic with the promise of fresh air and social distancing.
Park leaders expect 2021 to be a busy year. They are making Hendricks County parks a priority and hope others will, too.
“The Hendricks County community has a treasure within our incredible parks, and I am excited to inspire more residents to support our beautiful public spaces,” Cummings said.
Getting to know Katy Cummings:
- Homelife: Lives in Brownsburg with her husband and twin boys who are in second grade
- Favorite local park: Arbuckle Acres
- Book I’m reading right now: I just finished reading “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and started reading “Stretch” by Scott Sonenshein.
- Show I recently binge-watched: “Ted Lasso” — I didn’t want it to end!
- Vacation I would like to take someday: I traveled through Europe after college, and I hope to visit again someday with my husband and kids.
- This spring I’m looking forward to…Warmer weather, the crocus blooming and lots of trips to our amazing parks in Hendricks County.
- Two key items I always take with me for an outdoor outing with my family: Water bottles and baby wipes…we’ve continued to buy baby wipes even though we don’t “need” them anymore. They are just so handy.
- My favorite place to eat in Hendricks County: Just one? I love Perillo’s, and I really enjoy Thai District