Despite what you’ve heard about teaching old dogs new tricks, the century-old REALTOR® Association of Pioneer Valley (RAPV) in western Massachusetts has taken to the REALTOR® Party’s Placemaking initiative like a puppy to a fetch-stick.
RAPV Chief Executive Officer Ben Scranton got the word out to his 1,650 members last year, shortly after learning about the placemaking grants at the Association Executive Institute meetings of the National Association of REALTORS®. These fairly modest grants of up to $2,500 help communities to create gathering places that enhance the well-being of a neighborhood, its citizens, and visitors. In short order, several members had responded with ideas; over the course of the year, with the support of the RAPV board and its Government Affairs Committee, two grants were applied for and awarded, for placemaking activities in two communities served by RAPV.
The first placemaking grant helped to fund the construction of a dog park on a formerly unused piece of public property in the town of Agawam, just west of Springfield in Hampden County, where Scranton states many of his members live and work. The fenced-in, off-leash park was a community-driven project in collaboration with the town’s Parks & Recreation and Planning & Community Development Departments. Its overall budget of $240K was largely funded through the private fundraising efforts of the Agawam Dog Owners Group (ADOG). As 2014 RAPV President Patrick Nolan stated in presenting the association’s $2,100 grant to ADOG, “REALTORS® live, work, and volunteer in their communities, and take immense pride in working to improve them. The concept of Placemaking…can help foster healthier, more social, and economically viable communities. It creates places where people feel a strong stake in their neighborhoods and are committed to making things better.” Indeed, notes Scranton, RAPV members who frequent the dog park report that when it was completed this past summer, it instantly became an integral part of the community.
In addition to the boost from the placemaking grant, in September, following the official opening ceremony, a memorial bench was dedicated at the Agawam Dog Park in honor of RAPV Past President Cindy Ayre, a life-long dog-lover who had recently succumbed to a long illness. In response to a suggestion from a fellow-member, RAPV members made donations in her memory to add the welcoming bench to a place they knew would have special meaning to their departed colleague and friend.
The small town of Monson, Massachusetts, east of Springfield, was the beneficiary of RAPV’s second placemaking grant. Hard-hit by a devastating tornado in June of 2011, Monson has been in ‘rebuilding-mode’ for years, explains Scranton; with the business district and municipal offices newly reconstructed, the town has recently been able to shift its focus to more recreational ‘quality-of-life’ projects. It was in the process of creating a low-impact fitness trail around some municipal ball parks, when RAPV saw an opportunity to help: it secured a $1,500 placemaking grant to provide signage and benches for the new facility. At one point, the trail had been billed as a fitness feature for seniors, says Scranton, who points out that, in fact, he’s seen numerous parents with strollers making use of the gentle route, too. “It’s really a nice addition for the whole community, and we’re proud to have made it a little more comfortable and welcoming,” he says.
“These placemaking grants reflect how active and how invested in their communities our members are,” he continues. “They’ve really embraced this Placemaking initiative, and their ideas for future projects keep coming! We’re so grateful to the REALTOR® Party for supporting our community involvement this way.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts are using placemaking micro-grants from the REALTOR® Party to improve their communities for man, beast, and stroller, contact Ben Scranton, RAPV Chief Executive Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413.785.1328, or visit www.rapv.com.
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