A Young Voice and Mother’s Persistence Leads to Major Grant for Kent

Gipson, Alvarez, Tobin hold a $100,000 check that will go to a new playground at Kent Elementary.
Gipson, Alvarez, Tobin hold a $100,000 check that will go to a new playground at Kent Elementary.

As paperwork kept piling up on NYS Senator Terry Gipson’s desk, the proposal for a new playground at Kent Elementary School continued to get buried.

A couple months had gone by after he received the original proposal, with admittedly not much thought toward it. But during a visit to the elementary school a fourth grader asked Gipson about the playground.

With that one prodding question, Gipson renewed his effort to find the grant money needed to build the school district a new playground on its premises. Last Tuesday Gipson, along with other elected officials and community members, was there to celebrate a $100,000 grant for a new “Imagination Station” for students to enjoy.

“Clearly this is something we should be doing,” Gipson said during a press conference. “It’s so important in this day and time to give our youth the ability to play outside, to get away from the television, and the ipads, and the computers.”

On the first day of school, Gipson confirmed the grant, which was obtained through the New York State Economic Development Assistance Program and would go toward The Imagination Station Inc, a not-for-profit corporation whose goal is to rebuild a new playground after the old one was torn down in July 2010.

One of the leaders for the new playground, Kent Elementary PTO president Brittany Alvarez was elated to finally receive the monetary support needed. She said it took a lot of phone calls, emails, letters and “lots of getting no’s” before she found a way to get the funding for the project.

“I think for every ‘yes’ there’s at least 10-15 ‘no’s’” Alvarez said.

“This is a major launch for our project, major launch,” Alvarez continued. “We’re sliding into home.”

Every elected official that stood up, among them Gipson, County Executive MaryEllen Odell, Legislator Richard Othmer Jr., Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, and Kent Supervisor Katherine Doherty commended Alvarez for her persistence.

Odell called Alvarez a driven, compassionate, focused individual and said the Kent PTO is lucky to have her.

Odell joked if there is one thing she knows about Putnam, “if you want a project done, you ask a mom because there’s nothing that’s ever going to stop a mom in this county.”

And with all the hard work Alvarez poured into getting the grant it’s a young student, Aidan Tobin, who gave her a critical assist. When Aidan’s father, Liam, heard that he spoke up to Gipson to ask about the playground, he couldn’t believe it.

Liam said Aidan had heard about the project from himself and his wife. He also has a younger brother who just started school where the playground is being built. What caught Liam by surprise is the fact Aidan isn’t one to voice his opinion.

“Shockingly, he’s extremely shy but he’s also very determined and a great student so he got an idea in his head and he just followed through on the action plan that he made,” Liam said.

Gipson said that one question from Aidan showed him students were also invested in seeing a new playground built.

He added the grant had all the necessary aspects, like support from various involved parties and proper planning needed to get the grant money. With so many proposals to sift through, deciding where funds should go can be an arduous process, Gipson said.

“You try to get the biggest impact with the small amount of money you have,” Gipson said. “This is a project that will benefit the entire community and the entire county and that’s hard to beat.”

But the work isn’t finished yet. Alvarez said the playground is being built from April 9-13 and volunteers are needed for the five-day construction, calling it hard labor from early morning to evening time.

And Gipson said at the end of the press conference by the time he returns in April, he’s looking forward to “a lot less talking, and whole lot more playing.”