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Walmart Foundation grants continue to fund Jones Center improvements

story and photo by Kim Souza
ksouza@thecitywire.com

The gifts that give again, or paying it forward are one of the main reasons the Walmart Foundation continues to support the Jones Center for Families in Springdale. Karen Parker, spokeswoman for the Walmart Foundation handed over a $250,000 grant to Ed Clifford CEO of the Jones Trust and Jones Center on Thursday (March 20).

Clifford said the gifts from Walmart and its foundation have been significant in helping the Jones Center during the past two years as it restructured operations, expanded programming and worked to make the sprawling resource financially sustainable for future generations.

Parker said the grant awarded Thursday would be used to support several initiatives and soon-to-be announced programs. Some of the proceeds will go toward scholarships for memberships so all citizens have access to amenities at the Jones Center. Clifford said thus far there have been roughly 1,000 members get some form of scholarship made possible with grants like this one.

PROGRAMS ON TAP
The grant also will support various programming and event costs such as spring break week from March 24 to 28. There are two special events planned during spring break week. Thursday (March 27) there will be an open house event from noon to 8 p.m., and on March 28 there’s a special skate event.

“All of our collaborative partners will be there in the gym to provide information on all of the programming and events such as Camp War Eagle, American Red Cross level 1 to 6 swimming lessons this summer. We will also have our own sports camps this year for things like speed and agility and we are managing the ‘learn to ice skate’ classes now. All of that is available on our website,” said Kelly Kemp, chief advancement officer for the Jones Center.

Kemp said noon to 8 p.m. on March 28, will be Frozen Friday, a theme day fashioned after the movie sensation. Kids are asked to dress up like their favorite princess/ prince characters and skate to the soundtrack of Frozen. There will be Ben and Jerry’s ice cream handed out after the skate.

She said the grant proceeds also will support $3 All Access Passes on Sunday Fun Days coming soon. Kemp said patrons can skate on some days and swim on other days so they will have to watch for those announcements.

FACILITIES UPDATE
Last year the Jones Center announced they would revamp their fitness center with new equipment using another grant they received from the Walmart Foundation. That has been completed and the new fitness center was relocated in a larger room upstairs above the gym. The old fitness room has been converted into a children’s gymnastics center where classes are taught three times a week. The gymnastics classes are part of the programming expansion still underway.

In January a new Montessori preschool opened at the Jones Center. At this time there are 13 preschoolers ages 2 to 5 attending daily. About half of those received scholarships. The preschool has a capacity of 24. 

Clifford said Springdale’s third new high school will open at the Jones Center in late August. Springdale School Board earlier this month approved its “iSchool” which will be similar to what Rogers did this year with its “New Tech” campus. He said the district will use six classrooms at the Jones Center for the iSchool campus, and will have access to the gym and share the computer lab already on site.

Mike GIlbert, chief operations officer for the Jones Trust, said the energy updates which will make the center more sustainable in terms of utility costs are well underway. Using a $3 million grant for the Walton Family Foundation initiated in November 2012, the Jones Center is in the midst of converting from a steam boiler system to a hot water boiler system for heating the 220,000 square foot building. Gilbert said steam is very expensive to produce and the center runs two large boilers which requires around the clock maintenance personnel. The conversion will trim an estimated 2,500 hours in personnel costs and include substantial utility savings as well.

“Our energy conservation measures are key to our sustainability as utilities are 50% of our operating budget,” Gilbert said. 

The Jones Center’s operating costs average about $3.5 million annually. 

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Gilbert said final bids for the conversion are expected Wednesday (March 26). He said some of the components bid came in lower than expected which is always good.

“I expect the final bid on Wednesday, board approval on Thursday (March 27) and work to begin on Monday (March 31).

Gilbert said steam boiler conversion will take place over the summer so that the energy savings will be seen in the fall of this year.

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