By Dillon Thompson
With more than 200 acres of land and eight miles of trails, Freedom Park is one of Atlanta’s biggest greenspaces. It’s a long, winding connector that stretches from Boulevard in the west, to Candler Park Drive in the east — touching at least a half-dozen of the city’s neighborhoods.
But all that space is expensive to maintain. It’s why the Freedom Park Conservancy (FPC) launched an ambitious, much-needed fundraiser earlier this year, with hopes of raising $225,000 to update the park’s infrastructure. Click or tap here to make a donation to the FPC.
Sally Dorn, an Inman Park resident and member of the FPC’s Board of Trustees, has been one of the campaign’s loudest champions. She recently spoke with the Messenger about the fundraiser, the plans for raising money and the future of Freedom Park.
The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Dillon Thompson: First, will you give me a little background on yourself and your role at the conservancy? How long have you been involved?
Sally Dorn: Years ago, in 1982, I was a founding board member for CAUTION, Inc., which was the predecessor of FPC. I joined the FPC Board again in January 2022 as the selected representative from the Inman Park Neighborhood Association. I was also recently named the Fundraising Chair for FPC.
DT: How did the current fundraiser come together?
SD: FPC had not done any fundraising in years, so we started putting together a budget and a plan. We budgeted a first-year goal of $225,000. We also planned to submit a grant application for $100,000 to Park Pride (a local nonprofit), for acquiring trash receptacles, wayfinding, and park signage. Park Pride offers matching grants, so we realized we would need to raise up to $100,000 ourselves. We started the application process with Park Pride in August and we kicked off the first phase of fundraising in September, with a request for large personal donations of $2,500 to celebrate the park’s 25th birthday. Soon, we’ll expand that to emails being sent to the memberships of our neighborhood organizations.
DT: What’s it been like coordinating with several different neighborhoods at once?
SD: The Park is huge. It requires a lot of maintenance and attention. Additionally, more than 35,000 live within a 10-minute walk. This is a huge advantage because we have lots of people to draw from. The disadvantage is how to reach these people and help them understand that Freedom Park is “our park” — that we all need to help in some way, to take care of the park and enhance it. We are lucky to have a board with representatives from each of the neighborhoods as well as at-large members. For example, CPNO’s representative, Mary Cox, is an active Board member and serves on the Art Committee.
DT: How are you hoping to reach your final donation goal?
SD: We would like to raise this money through neighborhood association contributions (Inman Park has committed $5,000 to the maintenance fund and $15,000 to the matching grant and operating budget) and large individual donations (we have raised $12,500 so far from our Celebrate 25 campaign and we will continue to contact and encourage these donors to give at the $2,500 level), plus smaller individual contributions, business donations and other fundraisers. One way we are seeking donations is through straight donations or percentages of sales at businesses — we recently did a dine-out at Shake Shack, and we hope to do two more before June 2024. But we still have a lot of work to do. If anyone in Candler Park would like to join our Fundraising Committee, we could use the help.
DT: What would you say to people in Candler Park who are considering a donation?
SD: Candler Park has 25% of the land in Freedom Park. What an incredible asset for your neighborhood. It would be wonderful for Candler Park residents and businesses to donate, to volunteer, to talk about the park to others, and to share on social media what the park means to them.
DT: How do you think Freedom Park will be different in five, 10, 20 years? How can this fundraiser help us get to that point?
SD: I think Freedom Park will be cleaner and better maintained. I also think it will have more art in it and more activities happening on a local level and will be recognized for its civic involvement. I also hope it’s recognized for how it connects to two Nobel Peace Prize winners — Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King Jr. — and how it honors Civil Rights hero John Lewis. I think it will continue to provide connectivity and mobility for all.
– Dillon Thompson is a one-year resident of Candler Park and an editor for the Messenger.