Petal Excel By 5 in the running for $10K

By HASKEL BURNS,

Almost exactly a year ago, members of the Petal Excel By 5 Coalition, the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the Coleman Center for Families and Children met to discuss the possibility of adding an infant/toddler playground to Hinton Park to supplement the existing play areas for older children.

The public can now help in that endeavor by participating in McAlister’s Deli’s “Tea Town Showdown,” in which participants can vote for a possible $10,000 grand prize that would go toward Excel By 5’s construction of the park.

“There are several different McAlister’s locations that are all participating in this,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “Depending upon which location gets the most votes, they determine a winner, and then they donate that money to the charity of their choice.

“So our local McAlister’s here in Petal has chosen Petal Excel By 5 as their charity of choice.”

Participants can take part in the showdown every day until July 18, which is Free Tea Day at McAlister’s. There are two ways to vote for Petal McAlister’s: by visiting www.mcalistersdeli.com/freeteaday or by stopping by the Petal location and purchasing a sweet tea.

Each method – online voting or tea purchase – can be done once per day, ensuring each participant two votes per day. 

“We are running against a lot of cities that are larger than us, like Brandon, so we’re at a disadvantage in terms of sheer population,” Wilson said. “So we’re trying to get the community involved – it’s a very easy way for us to potentially get $10,000 for Excel By 5.

“I think people initially tend to go on there and vote once, but they forget you can vote every single day. We’re encouraging everyone here in Petal to put a sticky note or something on your computer to remind you to vote every day.”

And the $10,000 isn’t the only possible takeaway from the contest – there’s also a $5,000 second-place award and a $2,500 third-place award.

“Even if we don’t win first place, anything would be wonderful,” Wilson said. “One of the reasons (the funds) would be very helpful is because we could utilize that as what we call a grant match.

“While we’re applying for grants to help us with this infant/toddler playground, most grants require that you have some form of matching money, whether it’s 20 percent or 50 percent of the grant. They want you to have some skin in the game, and for you to also have come up with some money, so that would help us tremendously with having matching funds in grants.”

Possible pieces of equipment for the proposed infant toddler/playground are a Smart Play Loft for children ages 2-5 years old and a Smart Play Nook that offers 28 different activities for children ages 6-23 months. Other possible ideas include shade structures, seating for parents, a market café, a Little Tykes Treehouse and a swing area.

“Obviously, $10,000 could go quite a way to either buying equipment for the playground, or purchasing shade cover, ground cover – any number of things that are needed, it would be a huge bonus for us,” Wilson said.

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