Heritage Park tries to close the gap on funding

Heritage Park tries to close the gap on funding

Children take part in playground activities at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. File photo by Erika Karp

Taxpayer dollars don’t go to the Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

The 15-year-old park is funded by the Heritage Trust Fund, a nonprofit organization that helps keep the park and its annual community events alive. Earlier this year, two of the organization’s popular community events — Summerfest and the carnival — were rained out. The group lost $3,900 from Summerfest and only made $7,500 from the carnival; they were hoping to raise $5,000 and $25,000 from the events, respectively.

Now, Heritage Trust is $25,000 below its operating budget. The lack of money left Heritage Trust board members with an idea to “create a Close the Gap Campaign,” shortly after the carnival ended on Oct. 5 — the only day community members attended for the four-day event— to try to raise funds to make up for the lost money.

In the past several days, the organization raised $2,680, around 10 percent of the online fundraiser’s goal of $25,000. The Heritage Trust has 47 more days to raise money. According to Heritage Trust President Lori Baldassare, the money raised from this campaign will go toward upkeep of the park, paying off various insurance or financial expenses and funding future events.

“We were hoping the carnival would help us get back on our feet,” Baldassare said. She added that the trust’s request for donations with the online campaign wasn’t created because they weren’t doing well.

“It’s because of circumstances like the weather that prevented us from meeting our goals,” she said.

Heritage Trust holds around eight fundraising events in addition to occasions like the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which is free to residents. This year they added a fundraising event on Nov. 6 to help their effort. According to one of the founding board members Tom Carbone, the organization had its ups and downs, but he said they haven’t “been in the situation [they’re] in now.”

Aside from gathering money from fundraising events, Baldassare and Carbone agreed there are additional complications.

“It’s harder and harder to find volunteers,” Carbone said. “We had a solid base of support when we were building the building and supporting the park.”

Fifteen years ago a Home Depot was planning on purchasing the property. Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was important in acquiring and preserving the property. He wasn’t available to comment on the park, but countless other community members were also involved, including Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

Anker said she was there when the park was being built. According to Anker, a Home Depot in that location might have deterred people from moving to Mount Sinai and said the park is important to the area.

“I think the park is a jewel in the Mount Sinai community,” she said. “The community needs to be more aware of the needs of the park. If it wasn’t for Heritage Trust, the park wouldn’t be there … we’d be missing out on the gifts that the park gives us.”

Although the Heritage Trust and the park lack the support they once had, sponsors like Dierdre Dubato continue to help. Dubato said she may donate up to $1,000 to the organization annually and agreed that many people think local government bodies help support the park. Many don’t realize the park is funded by a nonprofit despite the fact that this is advertised on one of the few signs residents pass before entering Heritage Park’s facility.

Although Baldassare said there is no need to eliminate an event like the tree lighting, which costs the organization a couple hundred dollars, if they don’t have enough money to support these types of community events, these events would be the first to go.

To date, the organization has 28 supporters on its online campaign. Baldassare acknowledged that residents and their families are busy, but said she wished more people would help the organization maintain the park.

“I just feel that it’s a little bit harder to rally troops,” Baldassare said about funding community events. “It would be nice to have that grassroots support that we did when we were creating the park.”