(from Maine Townsman, May 1999)
By Cindy Hazelton, CLP, Director of Recreation, Town of Gorham

Remember when you were a young kid playing in the neighborhood and someone came up with the idea to build a fort or tree house? Think how that idea moved forward.

A group formed and divided up the tasks to assemble the materials, formulate the design and assign certain jobs to "experts" in the project. Basically, each kid ran home, rummaged through their Dad’s tools, gathered up scrap boards, dumped every coffee can of nails, salvaged rope, twine and anything else that might be useful. Right!

Then, they’d all meet back at the pre-approved "site". There was no "approval" needed. What planners? We did that part ourselves! Permits? We’d worry later who we would "permit" to use our fort!

Sound vaguely familiar? I remember it well!

What this scenario reminds me of today is "partnerships" resulting in "products" — a group of kids working together to build a fort or tree house.

Today, the Gorham Recreation Department has establishing "partnerships" in and around our community. Recently, we "cut the ribbon" on a new office building for the department. The Recreation Department Office Project was a huge success that involved many people who became partners with recreation.

The Idea

The Gorham Recreation Department was located in a small "closet" area in the Middle School for several years. A place for the department to call home was long over due and now a priority.

The Process

My first call was to a local contractor in town to inquire if he thought we could build a portable building (like the ones schools use) for the Rec Office. He liked the idea and the lack of funding did not dampen his enthusiasm for the project. He advised, "Let’s go to our community."

My next call was to a local engineer. He was equally enthusiastic. He also agreed to volunteer his time for a building design.

The Proposal

Feeling confident that we had enough support to present our idea to the town manager, I put together a proposal. The facts were outlined: need for space, suggested location (town property) for the building, outline of "players" we would partner with including engineer, contractor, volunteer labor pool, and the "how we pay for this" suggestions. Other questions answered in the proposal included: What will we need? What will it look like? What are the planning department requirements? When would we do this?

The Construction

After several discussions, the proposal was approved by the town to move forward with a small amount of funding pooled from Recreation Department’s capital reserves and current fiscal year appropriations.

A supply list was developed. A flyer was distributed to gather as much of the materials as possible. Then came the "partnerships" expansion!

Once we had a design that people could see, a list of needs that people could envision, and enough capital to get boards, trusses, nails, plywood, etc., we launched our building project.

First the municipal interdepartmental partnerships began. Our Public Works Department responded first to form the slab for the building, connect us to water and sewer. When the first considerable donation of concrete came (8 inch thick slab, 24 x 48’ building with an additional 12 x 12 foot front entrance), the public works crew was there to pour and level the floor for us. Once the foundation was finished and conduits roughed in, we scheduled the workday. Volunteers turned out in force. Our volunteer contractor brought his crew, we supplied the "laborers" and it took off.

Over one weekend, a group of volunteers, directed by our volunteer contractor, had the building standing, enclosed and roofed. Once the structure was up, the rest fell into place. More "partners", local residents came to us to offer assistance. Windows, doors, office equipment, bulletin boards, carpets, curtains, vinyl siding, interior trim, electrical, lighting, heating and plumbing fixtures were all donated to us by many new Recreation Department Partners.


Our success is really a community success. We worked together — sort of like those kids building the fort or tree house! It started with an idea, "experts" were assigned, tools and supplies were gathered, permits and "permissions" gotten and our common goal was accomplished together.