On Wednesday evening, over 30 people filled every seat in the meeting room for Bay Oaks Social Seniors to witness and participate in the birth of a new group whose sole purpose is to ensure that generations to come get to enjoy the Bay Oaks Recreational Campus and the Beach Pool.
“We are here to establish the Friends of Bay Oaks and the Beach Pool – what will be a 501-c3 non-profit organization with the mission of raising awareness and funds for both Bay Oaks and the pool,” said Denise Monahan, a member of the Bay Oaks Recreation Campus Advisory Board (BORCAB) and local parent whose children – like so many of us – grew up at Bay Oaks. She was joined by fellow member Becky Bodnar and Council member Tracey Gore – who is the Town Council liaison to BORCAB.
Denise began by explaining that she has already filed the paperwork to establish the new Friends group as a non-profit, a status she hopes to formally achieve by the end of the month, and said that former Town Attorney and current Beach Library Attorney Anne Dalton has agreed to serve as the group’s legal counsel.
“By the end of the month, once we’re official, we can start fundraising,” she said. “So why do we need to fundraise? Well, I can tell you that – right now – our operating costs are covered and money has been set aside for some needed capital improvement projects, but the budget for the coming fiscal year is being reviewed by Town Council and there are a number of us who wanted to form this group to see what we can do to go above and beyond what’s being given to us by the Town.”
Monahan, who seemed happily surprised at the turnout for the first meeting, passed around a list of things she thought the group could begin working on immediately.
“The first thing you can do is to ‘like’ our new Facebook page and start gathering old photos of Bay Oaks and the pool and tagging people – that way word will spread quickly,” she said.
People at the meeting were asked to fill out index cards with their contact information and to indicate how they would like to participate. The list of areas where the group needs help included the following:
Friends Membership – determine types of memberships and costs, reach out to corporate sponsors; Web Site – assist with design and rollout of website which needs to include a calendar and ‘donate’ buttons; Promotional Materials – design and hand out information that will be updated monthly to hotels, condos, real estate offices, etc; Media Rep – someone to write stories, possibly about interesting people in BOSS or Bay Oaks youth, and press releases; Grant Writer; Financial Team – someone to handle fund allocations and Host A Table – people to volunteer at informational tables that will be set up at local events.
After that, the group began to brainstorm on ways to raise both funds and awareness. A number of great ideas were put forth, including asking restaurant/hotel owners to encourage their staff to learn more about Bay Oaks and spread that information to their customers; having softball and pickleball tournaments along with ‘bike-a-thons’ and ‘swim-a-thons’; hosting a ‘Slide the Beach’ slip and slide event; better signage and the creation of a 2nd entrance to Bay Oaks at Gulf Beach Road that runs behind Topp’s, and QR codes.
The meeting ended with attendees enthusiastically discussing ways to help out, with many lingering long after the meeting ended and talking as they walked back to their cars.
“I will let everyone know when the next meeting will be once I figure out how long it will take for us to incorporate,” Denise said. “In the meantime – spread the word!”
Keri Hendry Weeg
Photo by Keri Hendry Weeg