Saving Grannies' Fannies, one park at a time
Lynn Toller, far left, and Angela Toller, far right, show off the inspiration for Saving Grannies’ Fannies in Kiwanis Park Thursday: 4-and-a-half-year-old Austin poses to the left and 2-year-old Aundre poses on the right.
Photo by Jenny Gessaman
Lynn Toller spreads her arms wide as grandchildren dart across open grass to new playground equipment.
“This is the perfect place for littles to come and just run,” she said.
A younger woman, Angela Toller, aims a stroller towards the two boys, now climbing, sliding and swinging.
“But there’s nowhere for granny’s fanny,” Angela adds.
Lynn and Angela live in the neighborhood surrounding Kiwanis Park, an open block of space near Garfield Elementary. It features a grassy lawn, a basketball court and playground equipment, all enclosed by a border of juvenile fruit trees and berry bushes.
What it noticeably does not feature, at least for the mother- and daughter-in-law pair, is a place to sit.
A seat for granny
Last Easter highlighted the problem for Lynn. A neighborhood egg hunt drew out local families, and as hordes of kids searched for Easter treats, crowds of parents just stood around.
“I thought, ‘Where are the benches?’” Lynn said.
So the two women took action. Lynn and Angela attended a Park and Recreation Board meeting. They proposed benches, but were told there was no money in the budget. Lynn asked what would happen if they came up with the money, a question Parks and Recreation Director Jim Daniels was happy to hear.
“She was wondering if she could fundraise to get some put into the park,” he said.
The two had a proposal to raise money for concrete benches and tables, saying the addition would make the park more usable for families. Daniels saw their point.
“A lot of people go over there with their kids or their grandkids and don’t really have anywhere to sit,” he said.
The Board approved the request. A tip from a coworker sent Lynn to the Central Montana Foundation, where she picked up a grant application. Submitting the application was only one part of the process, according to Lynn.
“The most intimidating part was probably going to the meeting of the Central Montana Foundation Board,” she said.
CMF Executive Director Carrie Mantooth helped Lynn and Saving Grannies’ Fannies get on the Board’s March agenda.
“[Lynn] talked about her experiences there, the many family gatherings and birthday parties,” she said.
Angela has lived kitty-corner from Kiwanis Park for a decade, but Lynn has lived in the neighborhood for 40 years. Those four decades of experience shaped the pair’s proposal: Lynn remembered rickety wooden benches and tables leaving souvenirs in all of the park’s visitors.
Saving Grannies’ Fannies is proposing cement tables and chairs.
“They will last for generations,” Lynn said.
“Hopefully forever,” Angela added with a laugh.
The proposal, complete with a project estimate and $275 of a $3,275 total cost already raised, was approved by the CMF Board for $3,000.
Saving Grannies’ Fannies’ next step is to get final approval for where the new additions will go, according to Lynn.
“We just need to come up here with Jim Daniels one of these days and make sure we don’t tread on the underground sprinklers,” she said.
Lynn and Angela expect the new park furniture by summer, and the two enjoy imagining the moments to come.
“This neighborhood has kids all over it, and young families,” Lynn said. “This is a perfect place to come after dinner, or anytime: The kids can run off steam. They can run a whole block.”
The two can’t contain their ideas.
“We want this because I want to have Kentucky Fried Chicken in the park at night,” Lynn said.
“We can have Austin’s fifth birthday here,” Angela chimed in.
“Someday, there will even be snacks built in,” they finished, referring to the fruit trees and berry bushes.
While Saving Grannies’ Fannies is officially labeled as a Toller effort, Angela credits her mother-in-law with brightening the future of Kiwanis Park and its kids.
“Really, this was her baby,” she said. “I’m just having the babies she can come to the park with.”