MEREDITH — Having followed the effort to restore the town’s skatepark, and seen the widespread support that culminated in a Town Meeting vote to double the petitioners’ request for municipal backing, Paul and Sharon Steinwachs of Moultonborough decided to give the effort an additional shot in the arm through a $25,000 matching contribution.
“We’re snowbirds,” said Paul Steinwach, “and we follow what goes on up in the New Hampshire area, which is our house for six months of the year. Sometimes the best way to find out is through the paper, and there are things we see in The Laconia Daily Sun that touch our heartstrings.”
The Steinwachs were taken by the efforts of Brendan Hart to restore the deteriorating skatepark that had been dedicated to the memory of his father, Glenn Hart. Although they have no connection with the skateboarding crowd, the Steinwachs were thrilled with what Brendan Hart was attempting to do.
“We live in Moultonborough, but that doesn’t make any difference,” Paul Steinwachs said. “We like to support things like that without any self-interest. We did pay a visit to (the skatepark) and saw that it was in dire shape.”
He said they contacted Brendan Hart last fall. “We’ve never met a more interesting or driven person than Brendan is," Steinwachs said. "He’s worldly beyond his age. We’re thrilled with what he’s done so far.”
Steinwachs continued, “Part of our philosophy is to watch what’s percolating out there, but we like to see community support, and we could see that support, even before the Town Meeting vote.”
Recognizing how much work it would take to raise the money needed to upgrade the skatepark, they contacted Hart last fall before he left for France, where he is taking graduate classes in international tourism and sports management.
“We contacted him cold turkey, and we talked for a couple of hours, and when he left, we said, we’ve got to do something to help him out.”
Fundraising through the Friends of Meredith Parks and Recreation hit a speed bump when the group learned its tax-exempt status was suspended due to missing paperwork. Without the nonprofit status, the group could not obtain the grants and tax-exempt contributions it was counting on to rehabilitate the skatepark.
Glenn Hart’s widow, Linda Hart-Buuck, stepped in to restore the nonprofit status of the Friends, but the government shutdown delayed the process and she died at age 63 on Jan. 9, before the paperwork came back.
Brendan Hart got back-to-back good news just before Town Meeting: The Friends’ tax-exempt status was restored, and the skatepark received a $25,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation, which promotes skateboarding for youths. That was followed by the 2 a.m. phone call to let him know that Meredith voters had not only approved the $25,000 petitioned article on the town warrant; they increased the appropriation to $50,000.
The total project is estimated to cost $232,000, so there was still a long way to go, but it was good news after the setbacks and the loss of his mother.
Contacted on Tuesday, Brendan Hart said news of the Steinwachs Family Foundation matching grant comes at a good time. Between the earlier fundraising efforts and the Hawks Foundation grant, they have raised $125,000 toward the project, and with the matching grant they could have $175,000 by the end of August.
The Steinwachs Family Foundation grant is set up to match all contributions coming in from now through Aug. 31. Hart said they have applied for other grants that would count toward that total, as well as having fundraising events planned for the summer.
There will be a fundraiser at Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant on Aug. 11 at which LeaderBoard of Boston will bring a portable 18-hole mini-golf course to the parking lot. Businesses will be able to sponsor each hole to help raise money for the skatepark.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Hart said, adding that they also plan to do a raffle at the end of August.
“I’m thankful to the Steinwachs for giving us this challenge,” he said. “It’s really boosted our morale, and I know it will be exciting.”
For his part, Paul Steinwach said, “I sure hope the community lets us meet this challenge quickly, and we may revisit it again. I couldn’t be happier if they raised that quickly and moved on to get it rehabilitated. This looks doable, to make an impact.”
Hart has posted a video to promote the matching grant at https://tinyurl.com/y2ya7dnh and there is a GoFundMe page to make donations at https://tinyurl.com/y6s3qeo4. The site had raised more than $8,000 as of Wednesday.