Next time you throw a coin into Cary’s new downtown fountain, you’ll help grant at least one type of wish.
The Cary Town Council decided Thursday to send loose change from the fountain to the town’s recreation scholarship fund. Relief for Recreation helps make the town’s recreation programming accessible to low-income Cary residents.
“While it might be beyond our authority to make any specific wishes come true, it is within our authority to put the money that’s tossed into the fountain to a specific use,” Mayor Pro Tem Ed Yerha said. “We could think of something to serve the community rather than literally throwing our money away. ”
Yerha and Councilwoman Lori Bush had approached Cary’s parks department for guidance on how to spend the money. Doug McRainey, director of parks, recreation and cultural services, said his first thought was to suggest Relief for Recreation.
The program began in 2008 with town money but is now funded entirely by private donations, said Sonya Snyder, a Cary parks supervisor. Last fiscal year, Snyder said, the program awarded $46,000 in scholarships.
Money goes to pay for children to attend summer camps and take part in sports leagues, including basketball. Some senior citizens also apply for scholarships, Snyder said.
McRainey said he and his staff haven’t decided how often they’ll scoop out the coins – maybe once a week, maybe once a month – or how much money the town expects the fountain to yield. Cary already gathers coins from a fountain on the Town Hall plaza and puts that money toward Oasis, a town program that helps residents in need pay their utility bills.
Unlike many public and private organizations, Cary doesn’t use what’s known as “petty cash,” or small amounts of town money that can be spent without being accounted for. That includes loose change that makes its way into Cary’s coffers.
“We account for every penny, literally, and we already have a process to account for the coins thrown into the fountain,” Cary Town Manager Sean Stegall said. “And because we have the recreation account set up as well, it would make the administration seamless.”
Stegall said the initiative would include a sign, and perhaps a public information campaign, to let wish-makers know where their coins are headed.
“I think a lot of people don’t even know we offer this for Cary residents,” Snyder said of the Relief for Recreation scholarships. “Any publicity we could get for this program would be tremendous.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan