Woonsocket Recreation Director Brings Summer Programs To City With No Budget

Elizabeth Kerrigan draws on event experience to organize activities, instruction, without funding.


Woonsocket's new Director of Parks and Recreation Elizabeth Kerrigan doesn't have a budget for programs, but she's still managed to organize a series of activities at city parks this summer.

Kerrigan said the recreation department used to sponsor many summer programs, but recent budget cuts to the city's departments have left her office with only funding for maintenance of parks and playing fields. So she got creative.

Kerrigan's plan: Work with local officials, business owners and volunteers to offer the city summer fun. She managed the trick, offering the "Just Play" program (see attached .pdf), essentially supervised play in the parks with parents and kids, that started July 9 and runs 9 a.m. till noon at a different park each week day through Aug. 20.

Kerrigan said the idea seems simple, but it's fulfilling a real need for city kids. "Some kids have never hit a ball. Some kids have never jump-roped," she said. There's a first time for everything, and "Just Play" is providing that for a lot of local youths this summer, Kerrigan said.

It's not only the kids who are enjoying themselves, Kerrigan said — so are the parents. "They're really excited that they can do something with their kids," she said.

Kerrigan said she was able to get some staffing help for the program in the form of local teens from , which won a grant this summer allowing them to offer 90 teenagers their first summer job. "I picked up six," Kerrigan said, allowing her to staff "Just Play."

Lisa Godfrin, secretary of Northern Bernon Little League, said she and other Little League parents are thrilled with Kerrigan's efforts. "Bernon Little League’s board has been so impressed with Elizabeth Kerrigan’s work in keeping up the maintenance and overall appearance of the baseball fields in the city with such a limited budget.  When she asked us to help her get the word out on the “Just Play” program, we were more than happy to assist.  Her goal is in line with Bernon’s, which is to keep the youth of our city active and involved.  With this being the first year in a long time since we have seen such a program in our parks, we gladly passed out flyers and emailed our members about the activities, as well as donated some baseball equipment that could be utilized in her program.  The children that will utilize this program ultimately will be the youth that will participate in sports in our city organizations, including Bernon," Godfrin said.

For "Fitness in the Parks!", Kerrigan asked local businesses Ocean State School of Performing Arts, , , and if they'd be willing to volunteer their instructors for a few sessions during the summer at some of the city's parks. They said yes. "The companies that I contacted were so willing and so eager to donate their instuctors' time," Kerrigan said.

There are still three sessions left for "Fitness in the Parks!":

  • Friday, Aug. 3: Yoga, 6 p.m. at River Island Park with The Gym (rain date Aug. 10th)
  • Monday, Aug. 6: Kickboxing, 5 p.m. at River Island Park with Rondeau’s Kickboxing.
  • Saturday, Aug. 25:  Boot Camp!, 7 a.m. at River’s Edge with The Gym (rain or shine).

"It was great for them to get their word out and it only costs them what they pay for an instructor," Kerrigan said.

With donations from local businesses, the Parks and Recreation department are also offering a summer music series at starting Aug. 4 with TRIO's jazz, blues and funk from 6 to 9 p.m. There are also concerts scheduled for Aug. 11, Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 (see attached .pdf).

The series is funded through donations from The Bocce Club Restaurant, Soucy Insurance Agency, PolyWorks, WNRI, Burrito Co., Pillsbury House Bed & Breakfast, Oakland Grove Care Center & Woonsocket Senior Center and Sound system & DJ Services by J.A.G.S. Entertainment.

While Kerrigan was working for the city as a clerk, she said she learned the former recreation director was retiring. She started thinking about the job, and how she could bring recreation programs back to to the city.

"I've been an event planner, truly, about my entire life," Kerrigan said, before she started working as a city clerk. She knows how to set up and organize vending and corporate events. Also, "I kind of have a sense of what people my age want to do with their kids," said Kerrigan, a mom herself.

She said she wanted to apply for the Parks and Recreation director job, but didn't think she'd get it because she didn't have a CDL license to operate maintenance equipment. She mentioned in passing to a co-worker that it was too bad, since otherwise she thought the job was perfect for her. The friend told her that wasn't a requirement for the director's job, so she applied and got the position.

"I'm glad I said something," Kerrigan said.

She's not the only one who's glad. "During these hard fiscal times in our city, we are excited to see the opportunities open to the families because of Elizabeth Kerrigan's hard work in securing donations," Godfrin said.

Denis Ferreira February 28, 2013 at 07:44 PM
So let me see if i got this right. you are ranting and raving about her qualifications and yet you comment on how a summer intern can do the job? Does that make any sense? While yes perhaps parents can take their own children to go to the park and do some of the things such as your tee ball comment since it must be so much fun for the child to play that by themselves. You are looking at the budgets and you want to cut a program that is geared toward getting younger kids off the street and doing activities as a family and with other in the City. Perhaps with less arogant and greedy people such as your self the city would not be in the position that it is in since quite a bit of the issues came from greed of people in power that embezzeled money. Imagine a department aimed towards giving youth and adults a place and event to gather together and be social. Hopefully creating less self involved people such as Steve in the city. Sadly if you have children i can just imagine how social and involved they are in their community all because of their role model.
Denis Ferreira February 28, 2013 at 07:51 PM
What do you do for a living and for what company. I will start sending resumes of people more qualified. Can you honestly tell me that there is no one more "qualified" for you job than you are. Dont take my comment wrong. I am not saying that you do not do a good job in your position. My point is some one who can do a job and do it well is not always the most qualified. They put a fresh spin on things. As a manager i have often found that by hiring a person based on personality and ambition has given me better results then hiring the person who is more qualified on paper. I am not sure if you have ever had to hire people in a corporate environment especially in a role that requires customer service but often paper qualifications do not outway the personality.
Denis Ferreira February 28, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Perhaps if Elizabeth can continue to get people involved she can also begin to put together fundraisers at these events to aid other area's that the city could use help with. Oh wait...that is thinking outside of the box. We dont want to do that. We should stick with cuts instead of looking for ways to gain income. We should put down people who are trying to help the community instead of the ones who ruined it.
Denis Ferreira February 28, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Perhaps as these organizations get involved and see that people in woonsocket are willing to get involved in these events then it will make it worth while for them to pay rental fees but would you pay rental fees to have an event in a place that has only had bad reputations? Increase the interest and reputation and perhaps you can then charge rental fees.
Denis Ferreira February 28, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Poor Elizabeth is right. Having the arogance of people such as Steve trying to belittle her efforts. I dont know if Steve has children with some of his comments especially commenting on the fact that her ideas are not new and parents can take the childrent to do the activities such as tee ball with out these events. Must be great for a child to hit a tee ball and have no one else there to enjoy it. Sounds like a blast! With the attention that she is bringing to the community and the parks perhaps there will be more interest in keeping them maintained. As she brings more attention perhaps there will be more donations and she could begin fundraising for other areas that the city needs money for. Perhaps if she can get more people involved Woonsocket can become more of and a better community which will keep the higher earning individuals in the city who can pay higher taxes. Currently most people who begin to earn more look for ways out of the city due to the condition, crime, and overall community. Congrats Elizabeth! Dont let people get you down. What you are doing is great and what the community needs. Not all efforts result in an immediate and direct increase of income but over time will improve the attitudes and outlook of people and companies which can in turn perhaps give new ways of generating revenue. Keeping thinking of new ideas and doing what you are doing.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »