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.

Steve August 02, 2012 at 11:29 PM
EF, exactly, if you have a department with no budget, then how on earth can you have a director of that department?! This is typical Woonsocket budgeting plain and simple. If you look at the attachments, I can get a 14 yr. old to put together the .pdfs that were created. Let's see, she's inviting adults to come to the parks and take their children? Really, they need an invitation to take their children to the parks? Next, concerts in the parks has only been a tradition that's been playing out for the last 10 years or so......... Very innovative...... And then we wrap it up with kick boxing on city property. This is a liability just waiting to happen. Hopefully she vetted these activities with the city's legal department. Oh well, let the criticisms come now..............
Still Hope August 03, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Ha. Steve seems to be trolling and trying to kick dirt on a picnic. The director's position is full time at under $50k. The department itself has over 20 employees to maintain city parks and areas. This department is quite funded. What is not funded are programs to put these parks to use. Want an example? The governor just allocated $2.6M to revitalize WWII Park. What's the point of receiving a pretty new park if you don't do anything with it? Thats where the director comes in. Get it? You are also looking at cultural stuff like farmer's markets and car shows. I'm sure we could find some uses for that multi-million dollar bike path(maybe an elderly walk?) As far as winter is concerned, have you never been to River Island? Qualification? I believe she has a degree in management and loads of experience in management and also event coordination. This is primarily what the director does. Were you looking for someone with 20 yrs behind a backhoe? My only suggestion to the new director would be to add more focus for the teens and preteens. Last time I tried to play ball at Cass, it was covered in sand and Cold Spring was missing half a rim. Maybe get some of those free kids to clean the places up a bit. More activities for troubled teens = less copper missing from vacant homes.
Steve August 03, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Still Hope, where are you getting your facts and figures from. Does that 50K salary include benefits? I just looked at the 2012 Woonsocket budget, and can't find a position listed for the Recreation Director anywhere. You say this department has 20 folks in it, are you sure you're not talking about the Public Works department that Sheila heads up? 20 folks in the Recreation Department, really? And as far as River Island Park, do we really need a director to run that program in the winter time? (Turn on the refridgeration unit and call it a day, ,or a month?) And as far as qualifications, did you see the job posting? Do you know if she was qualified for the position or not? From what was discussed on WNRI, she wasn't. Like I said, where are you getting your facts and figures from?
Still Hope August 03, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Steve. I'm just pulling garbage out my brain. It's up to you to decide of it's true or not. Mrs Kerrigan's job is part of the Public Works Dept, as are sewer workers and traffic light hanging guys. Her job is dealing with the parks. There are easily another 20 people that also deal with parks regularly, the traffic light guy is not one of them. The Director does not supervise these other park people, but rather works with them. Her function is event coordinating(planning, budgeting, and implementing). In coordinating an event she might seek another park guy for their function, say the park trash guy to add extra trash cans. I don't know if there is a subdivision called "park guys" in the Public Works, but Mrs Kerrigan would be one of them. I don't know who Sheila is either, I'm sure she is swell. Does she get benefits? Let me ask my dog. Woof. Also, last time I listened to WNRI I remember hearing some people that weren't quite qualified to be on the radio. So, I challenge that source.
Rob Borkowski (Editor) August 03, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Steve, when you say it (her qualifications for the job) was discussed on WNRI, can you tell us who discussed it?
pitbull tickler August 03, 2012 at 09:55 AM
Is Steve another close relative of the dirtbag political hack who thinks the job "belongs" to his sister-in-law?
Not Leo Fontaine August 03, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Not to downgrade her efforts but why do we always "thank" these people like they're heroes.They're getting paid to do their jobs.I wish someone would "thank" the Woonsocket taxpayer for doing their thankless jobs.Sadly,they're taken for granted and ridiculed while they circle the drain.
Bboy August 03, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I can't stand it, I know you planned it I'm gonna set it straight, this Watergate I can't stand rocking when I'm in here 'Cause your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear So while you sit back and wonder why I got this big thorn in my side Oh my God, it's a mirage I'm tellin' y'all, it's a sabotage
English first August 03, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Steve I have an Idea. Why don't you do it as a volunteer for a year? Please report daily on what you do so we can see if it is worth any money at all? I know I am not volunteering. I think sometimes it is assumed that someone who "has more experience" will be better. Maybe there would just be more of the same. I think someone with new ideas and alternative plans can bring a better situation to the city. It is a one year contract, am I correct?
Pete Dufresne August 03, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Steve was the last person that held a position qualified for it? Or were they just "shoed-in" and held the position? There is always someone more qualified for a position, doesn't mean that they are the right "fit" for the job. I don't know her but it sounds like Ms Kerrigan is going above and beyond what is required for the position. Did the last "qualified" person do that? I believe her job is to keep the parks in good working order. Getting people to actually use the parks will get people out and communicating with other city residents while their children play, which might in turn get people to stay involved in the community.....which I feel is a win-win situation on every level. Stop being such a negative person and open your eyes and your mind
Bboy August 03, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Another part of the job is scheduling use of the various fields and making sure they are in good order. Believe it or not the fields are used quite a bit. AAU baseball tournaments, semi pro soccer games and practices, semi pro football in addition to local baseball, soccer, youth football, lacrosse, softball, tennis, bocce, festivals. All are required to show proof of insurance which is kept in that office. Stop in one day, there's a lot going on.
Steve August 03, 2012 at 01:51 PM
John Dionne discussed this subject in great detail. I was hoping he would comment as well.
rjones August 03, 2012 at 02:22 PM
do all these outside organizations pay rental fees for the use of our fields? nice source of $$ to offset maintainence and our taxes. AAU is big $$ to play on teams and i know for basketball, gym fees are not cheap.
jde August 03, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Maybe Ms Kerrigan got the job because in the interview she had good ideas, like this one. It's not all about how long you've been a parks department employee, or what your degree is in. I could go to the park any time with my son and he could go on the playground equipment while I sit and watch. My wife, son , and I went to a park we'd never been to (which was quite nice) during one of Ms Kerrigan's programs and we had the opportunity to play teeball (I don't own a tee), badminton (don't have that equipment), volleyball (don't have one of those), and do crafts. I think it's a great program. Now we're going to buy a badminton set. We had no idea that our son would like it. Also, I believe I read in a previous article about the program that all of the supplies were things that were already in the City's possession, so the cost is very low. Kudos to Ms Kerrigan! and thanks to Bernon Little League for promoting this. I received my info on the program at a BLL game.
Bboy August 03, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I'm pretty sure they do but I don't know the rates. Don't forget the cricket league too but that's at Barry so I guess that falls under school dept.
rjones August 03, 2012 at 03:31 PM
It would be good to confirm the rates because whatever we are charging probably isnt enough to even cover any type of maintainence costs assoicated with the fields. be interesting to know how the $$ is handled and that there are checks issued by these organizations to the city for rental fees and not cash so we dont find out we have more corruption like the 2 clerks in city hall previously. the cricket league and the circus may help balance our school deficit too!
Steve August 03, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Nope, just a tax payer wondering how the city he lives in, and is basically on the brink of financial disaster, can afford to replace a retired Director of Recreation to the tune of 50 - 60K a year, when it can't even fund the department that the Director was hired for. Let's see, we have a Director, with no direct reports, and no city funding taking down 50 - 60K a year? Makes sen$e to me.......... And you folks complain when your excise tax on your cars go up $50.00? Beautiful!
Steve August 03, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Tell you what EF, how about you take a look at the 2012 Woonsocket budget like I have and see for yourself where and what cuts should be made in the City's budget! I've been over this line by line, department by department, you "Should" do the same! It may enlighten you....... Quit throwing these "You should" do this, "You should" run for that comments my way. These comments are as old as your constant "PITA" grammer and spelling corrections! I'm asking a simple question, is this a full time position or something a summer intern can fulfill, plain and simple right? I know, here come the scorching comments about me and how bitter I am, and gee, thanks to the Parks, my son finally had a tee to hit a ball off of? ....... Are you kidding me? If you need to have a park open so your son can hit a ball off of a friggin tee, you need to look at yourself and how you raise your children....... Last time I checked, I didn't need anyone else other than my son and I to go anywhere and have a good catch and hit with a baseball...... But I guess in these times, we need other people to set up a tee ball stand so little Johnny can hit a tee ball.... Unbelievable.
Russell Archambault August 03, 2012 at 10:16 PM
STEVE; Ive come to the conclusion that your view and common sense approach to any problem in this city is a waste. Also after listening to the John Dion show today and listening to some of the idiots on that show, Im now convinced that no matter what anyone thinks its always better just to be as stupid as you can be. It makes a lot more sense than your way. Now on the parks director's job. Its a clear indication how thing work. I was amazed to listen to that little snow job at the city council meeting. That little thing shows everybody, that when there's a will there's a way!
Russell Archambault August 03, 2012 at 10:25 PM
And steve how much does that directors job pay? Bye the way I looked for little johnny must of missed him. Im loosing my business and have to deal with this crap. But I dont care because Im moving in one of the parks anyway.
English first August 03, 2012 at 11:12 PM
If Elizabeth Kerrigan does read these posts, I hope she knows that many people appreciate her ability to get new ideas into action. Thank you for working with people at Family Resources. Can't anyone say anything pleasant?
Steve August 03, 2012 at 11:30 PM
I know EF, poor Elizabeth! Take a look at the properties in Woonsocket that are on the block for a Tax Auction! http://www.ci.woonsocket.ri.us/POSTING%20ADVERTISEMENT%20FOR%20REAL%20ESTATE%202012%20TAX%20SALE-WOONSOCKET-REVISED%207-13-12.pdf Now tell me, who do you feel for?........
Tamara August 03, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Elizabeth I applaud you for a wonderful job without a budget. I belong to Mt Calvary Church located on North Main St. We have a youth ministry that is currently helping the city by picking up trash (as you may have heard). They will be more than willing to assist where needed. If you would like the help, please contact me at 765-1575. Tamara.
Tamara August 03, 2012 at 11:42 PM
My apologies.... The number is 767-5215. God bless!! Tamara
ABFitz August 04, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Elizabeth is doing a fantastic job. Both my chldren and I have been enjoying the programs that she is coordinating with the help of very generous businesses in the City. She is very well qualified. It seems that she has much more to do during the day than to just plan these programs. SO - these programs are a bonus. Try them out - you might actual smile. More people should be taking advantage of them. Kudos to Elizabeth.
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.


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