Rec and Park sweetens deal to lure more volunteers 

While the Recreation and Park Department wrestles with how to cut down its budget, it’s finding a surplus in one area: volunteers.

Approximately 2,000 do-gooders — about 800 who signed up for recreation centers and about 1,200 who prefer open spaces — are currently volunteering and are managed by four department employees.

Volunteer Director Kristin Bowman, who has been with the department for 13 years, is not putting a cap on the number any time soon. And now the department is appealing to The City’s sweet tooth to keep the number of volunteers streaming in.

This week, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream had its annual free cone day, and three of the locations in The City offered to donate their tips to Rec and Park because of the volunteers’ efforts.

The sentiment spread to three other ice cream shops in The City — Three Twins, Mitchell’s Ice Cream and Humprhy Slocombe — that on Wednesday and Thursday all gave discounts to patrons who committed to volunteering for Rec and Park.

“We had a pretty good turnout,” said Colin Brocch, manager of Three Twins. “I’d say we had about 100 people come in here because of it.”

Last year, Rec and Park volunteers worked an estimated 104,000 hours, about 15 percent more than the previous year, pulling weeds, manning cotton candy booths and several other odd jobs worth up to $2 million in labor, according to the department.  

“We are busy,” Bowman said. “It’s just about getting out there. There’s never a dull moment.’’

Bowman and her crew are still spreading the word about helping out the department — which had to slash $12.4 million from its $33.4 million general fund budget — and so far it’s been a success.

It’s just one on a long list of new ideas, such as park slumber parties and flea markets, created under the direction of General Manager Phil Ginsburg — who served as The City’s head of human resources for three years, among other hats — for creating more revenue to avoid layoffs and program cuts.

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