BREC was created in 1946 by the Louisiana Legislature as an autonomous agency to provide park and recreation services for East Baton Rouge Parish. BREC is accredited by the National Recreation and Park Association and has been recognized with the National Gold Medal award twice and has been a finalists the last two years. Senior citizens, at risk youth, historic preservationists, golfers, nature lovers and others all know that “It all starts at BREC”.
The Foundation works closely with BREC to identify prospective priority capital expenditures that are under funded at conception. In 2004, BREC adopted the “Imagine Your Parks” strategic plan. A key thread is the input provided by the general public to capture their ideas, criticisms and attitudes.
One of the key components of the “Imagine Your Parks” strategic plan is the development of twelve of community parks. A “community park” is a park that many people in the Baton Rouge area have referred to as “signature parks”. No matter what you call them, they are designed to engage the entire family for a whole day. Higher levels of maintenance, security, and recreational opportunities can be expected at these parks.
In 2002, the concept of establishing a foundation was debated. It was thought that since local groups and recreation and park systems in other parts of the country were creating support foundations with good success rates, BREC should follow suit. The result was the formation of the BREC Foundation. The initial directors incorporated the organization, established a set of By-laws and received a 501(c) (3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service.
When the BREC Commission adopted the 2004 operating budget, funding was appropriated to help the BREC Foundation set up more formal operations and to cover basic administrative costs. In January of 2004, Carl Stages was hired as executive director.
Since that time, the BREC Foundation has increased its Board roster funding, revised its By-laws to incorporate more non-profit elements, encouraged individuals and businesses to become members and developed appropriate policies and procedures.
It is envisioned that the BREC Foundation will play many different roles in complementing the work of BREC. A property donation that the donor wants to be preserved as green space can be held as such by the Foundation. Gifts restricted to specific operational programs can enhance their quality. Capital projects can be achieved in a timelier manner rather than relying on the scarce dollars of millage rates that produce a limited amount each year. By building public-private partnerships, funds earmarked by BREC can be augmented with support from local, regional and national sources and the philanthropic and business community. In-kind donations of equipment or services could also be made. Creative approaches, not tied up in red tape, can offer streamlined time lines. The BREC Foundation can make these dreams realities.
Of course, skeptics will point out that as a publicly financed organization BREC should not venture in other financing means. Tax dollars provide a secure and vital base but to implement new ways of doing business, every avenue must be explored and tested. By having a vested interest in a foundation that exists to support its work, BREC has a partner that understands the culture, atmosphere and day-to-day realities of this type of business.
As BREC continues its transition, the BREC Foundation will play a vital role in that process. The public sees that there is a “new day at BREC” and has expressed its support with the recent renewal of the tax millages that provide basic maintenance and capital improvement funds. Internally, there is a willingness to try new ways of doing business while focusing on customer satisfaction.