On a fall morning in 2012, more than 250 members of the Geneva and Hobart and William Smith communities gathered at the shore of Seneca Lake to assemble what would be, by the end of that day, the Geneva Community Lakefront Playground. Now, five years later, the collaborative spirit that led to the playground’s construction continues to drive Geneva’s growth, says Katie Flowers, director of the HWS Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
“The upward trajectory we see in Geneva is due to the collective and ongoing investments by stakeholders across the community,” says Flowers, who also serves as secretary on the board of Geneva Community Projects, Inc., which partnered with the Colleges and the city to develop the playground. “In addition to the work on the playground, HWS and GCP share a longstanding alignment on critical educational and cultural initiatives throughout the community, from supporting Geneva Reads to the Geneva music festival. This exemplifies the wide-spread investment, creativity and community pride we see throughout the city.”
GCP board member Katharine Korona says that the “synergy created from working collaboratively” on projects like these “results in greater accomplishments” for the entire city. “A collaborative effort increases participation that leads to increased community awareness and the sharing of resources and expertise that can make challenging tasks more manageable,” she explains.
A charitable corporation, GCP is dedicated to building and renewing the strengths of the Geneva community through projects designed to promote the public good and uplift the human spirit. The collaboration between GCP, HWS and the city led to Geneva’s recognition as a “2012 Playful City USA” by KaBOOM!, the national organization that has built thousands of playgrounds throughout the U.S. since 1995. Lauding Geneva’s commitment to pursuing “goals on a community-wide level,” KaBOOM! and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group awarded a $20,000 “Let’s Play” grant to help fund the lakefront playground’s construction.
Most recently, GCP has supported Chair-ish Geneva, a collaborative project with the City of Geneva and Sensenig’s Landscape Supply, selling memorial Adirondack chairs that have been installed along the city’s newly renovated Lakeside Park. That project, which Mia Morrison ’20 helped develop and name, includes a 10-year sponsorship of the chair, with proceeds going to fund other community enhancing projects.
“I was happy to brainstorm ideas for the fundraiser with Geneva Community Projects board members,” says Morrison. “The idea of ‘Chair-ish Geneva’ came to me while thinking about ways we can commemorate loved ones, enjoy the beautiful lakefront and raise funds for initiatives in my hometown of Geneva.”
Over the past several years, Geneva has garnered significant recognition for its community development efforts. In 2015, Geneva was just one of 10 communities across the country to be named an All-America City by the National Civic League, which acknowledged the city’s progress in its neighborhood initiatives for community development and neighborhood revitalization; Geneva 2020; and the downtown revitalization efforts.
In the summer of 2017, the city received a $10 million economic investment for downtown revitalization from the State of New York, as well as an additional $5 million for the creation of the Finger Lakes Welcome Center. These investments, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, would help “attract jobs, private investment and transform the downtown into a vibrant economic engine for the entire region. These strategic and diverse projects will help grow the job market, develop the business district, and build on our momentum to keep the Finger Lakes moving forward.”
A time-lapse of the playground’s construction can be watched here.