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Thank You, PEO

I have always liked the phrase, ‘It takes a village’…it says to me that there are local people who are willing to come together for a good cause, to help when needed, and to provide support to an individual or community. Often these people do the right thing to help, without expectation of acknowledgement or recognition. Whether known or unknown, recognized or not, the ‘village’, comes together for a common good. The Grand Forks Children’s Museum and Destination Park is the perfect example of ‘it takes a village’.

Yesterday, Kim Woods, Community Engagement Director, and I met with an organization that -to be honest- I had never heard of before… the PEO, Philanthropic Educational Organization. Per their website, “P.E.O. exists to be a source of encouragement and support for women to realize their potential in whatever worthwhile endeavor they choose.” The total worldwide organization boasts nearly a quarter of a million members across nearly 5800 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. Their mission is to promote women and education. How could I have not heard of this organization? As our presentation went forward, I recognized many chapter members in attendance who were interested in our project…local women interested in supporting a good cause.

This PEO chapter graciously allowed us to present information on the plans for the Grand Forks Children’s Museum and Destination Park and our fundraising efforts. The discussion was lively, and we were very well received – it’s a good cause for our area and will bring true educational benefits and family fun to the community.

The questions were ones that we often hear, and I thought I’d share:

Q: Will the museum and park have a space for children with Autism?

A: Yes, the plan is to create an environment that is inclusive for children and adults with all types of abilities. The conceptual design has a planned wellness room, and we are working with DHI (Development Homes) and the Anne Carlson Center, who have agreed to work with our design team as we move forward. Sensory and tactile elements are important to both verbal and non-verbal play. Inclusion is paramount. These are essential elements in our designs.

Q: What ages will this museum focus on?

A: The focus is primarily play-based elementary engagement and we plan to have a land and sky theme. Children of all ages and their families will find opportunities to engage. Further, we aspire to have Dakota Science, UND and others involved to have activities and programming that will attract all ages.

In our local community, Bonnie – from the local library- conducted a wonderful story telling during story time at the recent Artwise event. She brought amazing energy to this space and the children were enthralled. This is the type of programming that we intend to bring to the Grand Forks Children’s Museum and Destination Park. Also in our community, is the local gardening club, who we would welcome to bring their programming and insights. There are many organizations in this community that will enhance our exhibits and programming.

Q: When will the Grand Forks Children’s Museum and Destination Park be built?

A: Based upon successful fundraising, our hope is to break ground in the fall of 2024. Of course, this is highly dependent on the private sector and government sector fundraising. Currently we are at approximately ¼ of our goal of $50 million. We hope in the near future to hear positively from some of the government agencies from whom we have solicited funds.

Q: Will there be membership fees?

A: The initial plan is to charge an admission/membership fee, which will help fund the ongoing operating expenses. However, we are very cognizant of the need in this community and plan to work with social services to make the museum and park financially accessible for all.

Q: What is the arrangement with the Grand Forks Park District for the Destination Playground?

A: Adjacent to the Grand Forks Children’s Museum site is a park, owned and operated by the Grand Forks Park District. The park district has graciously allowed the board to incorporate this park into the plans for the Grand Forks Children’s Museum to create an inclusive play experience. The vision for the Destination Playground is to create a year-round, inclusive design for all ages and abilities. This Destination Playground will be a fun, free attraction for our area’s residents and an amenity for tourism in Grand Forks.

Plans for the Destination Playground include these signature amenities:

· a year-round community pavilion,

· outdoor fitness court,

· sculpture walking trail,

· and fun winter features.

At the end of the meeting, we were treated to coffee and desserts. As I mingled among the membership, two PEO members came forward and remembered me as a child, as they lived on the street that I grew up on. It was fun to reminisce. We had a great introduction to this enriching and dedicated organization of women looking to help their community. There are so many ways to participate and help.

It takes a village.

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