By Joel Phelps
Four months after announcing the city’s plans for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in Arkadelphia, fundraising efforts are continuing as what park visionaries call a piece of the puzzle to make the park a reality.
The MLK Park Visioning Committee met in the Town Hall Boardroom on Monday morning for a project overview. Joining the meeting was Dr. Fitz Hill, one of the chief fundraising members tasked with soliciting donations for the park.
City Manager Gary Brinkley presented committee members with a draft of recognition guidelines and naming rights to the park’s signage and events. That draft, according to Hill, is expected to become the official guidelines before the committee meets again in January.
Since the committee’s last meeting, Hill has launched a social media campaign to vet Arkadelphia High School’s graduating classes against each other in friendly competition to raise funds. He’s been identifying leaders of AHS classes in hopes that each class from 1970 to 2010 will raise $10,000, and that each class from 2010-2020 will raise $5,000.
So far, the class of 1972 has been able to hit that mark with a lone donation, Hill said. The goal with the class fundraisers, Hill added, is to create leverage for matching monetary gifts.
In addition to the AHS class fundraisers, a community-wide event is on tap to aid in raising money. That event should happen in early 2022, with details to be finalized by the end of this year.
Hill likened the preliminary fundraising efforts to the final incline on a roller coaster just before the apex of the main thrill.
“Our goal is to be able to open up the park in 2023,” Hill said. “Once people see it, then it should sell itself. Money follows vision. This is all a connecting point to make that happen.”
With input from committee member Martha Dixon, the MLK panel will also be adding recognition points for local churches that provide donations for the park’s completion.