Emergency ‘Friends’ Meeting Called As Thorn Creek Woods Loses Funding

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Volunteers, supporters and Friends of Thorn Creek Woods are being asked to attend an emergency meeting on Friday, May 13, 2011, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The issue? The mere survival of Thorn Creek Woods.

The following is from an emergency email blast obtained by eNews Park Forest (reproduced with permission):

The dire financial situation made it necessary for the Thorn Creek Management Commission to layoff our valuable staff, Tara and Lily, effective June 30, 2011.

Tara’s maternity leave begins Saturday, May 7. Lily will handle nature center duties during Tara’s leave. Tara will be back from leave around June 22, and she and Lily will work through June 30.

Then Thorn Creek Nature Preserve will be without paid staff July 2011 through, most probably, December 31, 2011.

When the financial situation improves, and of course dependent upon receipt of Illinois Department of Natural Resources annual management fee $10,000 in the fall-winter 2011, the Commission hopes to hire Part-Time personnel, possibly January 2012. Tara will be offered the Part-Time job when it becomes available.

The Challenge:

For the interim period- July 1 through approximately December 31, 2011- without paid staff, the nature center will not have open hours, and programs will not be offered —

UNLESS

Friends of Thorn Creek Wood, along with volunteers and supporters of the Woods, work together to provide some services and programs to the public.

So, at this Emergency Meeting, we will discuss the situation and decide if there is enough interest and commitment to help Thorn Creek Woods during this difficult time.

Some of the ways we could help keep the Nature Center operational during the interim:

Open Hours-

Volunteers staff the Sunday Nature Center Open Hours noon to 4 pm. Can we continue to do so?

Can 4 more people commit to donating 1 Saturday each month to cover Saturday Open Hours?

4 more for Friday Open Hours?

Trail Committee

Can you volunteer to walk the trails on a regular basis, and report any problems?

Can you do minor trail repairs?

Can you help finish building the new north bridge in May-June-July?

Programs Committee-

A committee is working with the naturalists to determine if some or any of the Nature Center programs scheduled for July through December can be offered.

Can you volunteer to help at Garlic/Harvest Fest Saturday October 1st?

Can you volunteer to assist at programs?

PR help –

One or two Volunteers needed to deliver flyers etc to local village halls and libraries during the last week of each month starting in June.

Timing:

The Management Commission needs to decide as soon as possible (by early June at the latest) if the Nature Center will be CLOSED for the interim July 1-January 1,

OR, if Friends can commit to providing some services and programs for the public during that time.

So, FRIENDS and Volunteers and Supporters of Thorn Creek Woods Need To:

  • Attend the Emergency Meeting Friday, May 13, 6-8 pm
  • Decide what committee and job each person can commit to NOW

RSVP by Wednesday May 11:

Email or phone Friends Vice President Penny Chamberlain at [email protected] or 708-748-2227

IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND THIS MEETING, WHAT JOB CAN YOU VOLUNTEER FOR NOW?

INFORM PENNY!

Send questions or ideas to Penny and/or Judy Dolan Mendelson [email protected]

More on the Thorn Creek Management Commission Budget-

The Commission oversees the Nature Preserve and Nature Center. It’s funding is about $50,000/year from the agencies and about $6,000/year from program fees and donations. The current personnel expenses (full time and part time) account for about $60,000/year and miscellaneous expenses for utilities, supplies, postage, etc are about $9,000/year. Health insurance costs have risen dramatically these last few years.

The Commission has kept things going these last few years using left over funds from the previous years. This current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2011, used up that cushion. July 1, 2011 will see $3000+ cash left over, a bill for the second quarter personnel expenses of $11,278, and income of $12,000 (the annual Village of Park Forest contribution). So the fiscal year will start with about $3000, to last essentially until the State of Illinois contribution of $10,000 in the late fall (if indeed the state again meets this obligation), as the miscellaneous expenses pile up. Maintaining full time staff expenses became impossible. To maintain the current staffing, the Commission would need an infusion of $10,000-20,000 in July 2011, and then the same again in July 2012, and on.

And, receiving the State $10,000 so late in the year, plus the uncertainty of receiving that money at all, make it impossible to change to part time staff immediately. So the Commission hopes that finances will allow for hiring part time staff around January 1, 2012.

Three years ago the Commission cut the hours of the staff, and Friends created the Capital Fund to raise needed money for nature center and trail work – at that time the roof was crumbling – to take the pressure off the Commission budget for needed major repairs and improvements. Last year the Commission budget cut the miscellaneous line items to the bone, with Friends providing more supplies and materials than usual. With this budget year (July 2011) the situation required major change for the preserve – changing from full time staff and part time staff to only part time staff.