Kirkland parks department expands its reach with scholarship program

The decision to expand the program was made in an effort to provide more opportunities for residents.

The Kirkland Parks and Community Services Department has expanded its recreation scholarship program to provide more opportunities for Kirkland residents of lesser means to participate in recreational programs.

“There’s a strong demand for all our programs,” Kirkland Deputy Director John Lloyd said. “We wanted to ensure all members of the community were able to access our programs regardless of their income.”

The amount covered by the recreation scholarship program has drastically increased. Whereas in previous years it funded between 25 and 50 percent of a program’s overall cost, it now funds 50 percent, 75 percent or 95 percent of any recreation program backed by the parks department.

“Income shouldn’t be a barrier to people being active,” Kirkland City Council member Toby Nixon said in a press release. “We hope that these scholarships will help ensure that every Kirkland resident has the opportunity to access programs where they can be active and social in a positive environment.”

In the past, the majority of the scholarship program was funded by corporate employee-giving services, which would donate small amounts that were accrued over time. The new scholarship program now enables any Kirkland resident to contribute to the fund.

Lloyd said that there is no encouraged donation number or limit to the amount that can be offered.

“It can be zero, it could be a dollar, it could $100 or more,” Lloyd said, adding that if community members were to propose expanding the program even further that the department is “always able and willing to have those conversations.”

A setback in the previous incarnation of the scholarship program, according to Lloyd, was how few people knew about it. To combat this issue for the new version, the city recently put in a half-page ad in an informational brochure that discussed the new limitations of the program as well as how people can donate.

Lloyd said that the department has also made adjustments to its website, with one new feature being the addition of a donation button on the registration page.

“We don’t expect everyone to do it, but we wanted to give people the chance to give,” he said.

Lloyd wants the program to continue expanding in the long-term. He sees it allowing a wider audience to participate in the department’s programs, with the goal remaining to keep opportunities affordable and easily accessible.

“We know there are folks who aren’t participating in our programs and we want people to be able to do that,” he said.

He also hopes that the scholarship can widen its reach. At the moment, one scholarship per person per family is the restriction, but he said that can change depending on availability. Who can contribute to the fund might broaden, too, though at the moment the department is still refining its budget.

For now, Lloyd is looking forward to seeing the tangible ways the revamped scholarship program will have an effect on the community.

“We’re really excited to see how the program gets going this fall,” he said. “We look forward to serving a broader population.”

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