Reflecting on the Bay Village Foundation

Play in Bay project team leader Connie Dieken is pictured with her kids, Spencer, age 6 at the time, and Ali, 3, at the opening of the playground on Dover Center Road 20 years ago. Photo courtesy Connie Dieken

This past May I stepped down as president of the Bay Village Foundation after serving for 9 years. What will I do with the gift of time now available to me? Look no further, I found that there is a reservoir of information in my head, in my files and on my computer that I wish to share.

I had a box of files that came with the job so I began organizing them.The first thing that I came across caught my attention: a blue binder, with the beginning notes and minutes of how the foundation came to be. Here in these notes of 20 years ago, we see a fledgling organization called The Future of Bay. 

Back then Council President Dick Martin suggested a special fund to hold contributions for two groups that were raising funds that for Play in Bay and the addition to the Youth Center. As I looked at the notes of then-secretary, Bonnie Hunt, I saw how the vision of Dick Martin flowed through the work of Bonnie into the action of Gary Ebert, Tom Jelepis and Wayne Reese. 

Quite a few letters were sent and small meetings were held. It was a new idea for the community. With little time for more meetings, the volunteers raising funds were busy. When it came to the playground, these people did not simply raise money, they actually hand built the playground. It was an eye opener to see the lists of the sheer number of skilled and unskilled volunteer labor crew ready to do many days of hard work. 

Gary Ebert, who was one of the volunteers, recalled that “there were two lines, skilled and unskilled. If you were in the unskilled line, you were directed toward the wheelbarrows that needed filled or emptied of dirt and bricks.” Leaders Connie Deiken and Jim Potter were hands-on workers as well. Connie said, “I learned to use power tools that I’d never used before.” Kim Campbell, one of the workers, said despite the effort, and being very tired at the end of the day, the group had a great time and still maintain contact. In fact, said Kim, they’ve been thinking about having a reunion.

As I paged through the notebook, the meeting attendance and the response picked up steam to where Gary was asked to draft an application to gain federal 501(c)(3) status and to file the necessary papers papers with the state of Ohio. This very small beginning wrought an important, permanent part of Bay Village's growth. While pulling this history together, I gathered up the early documents and placed them in the safe keeping of the Bay Village Historical Society.

While transferring information to the foundation's new leadership, my newly found free time was spent reading and transferring documents. Our new president, Al Paulus, is so busy sorting out the programs, projects and board duties that he hasn’t had a moment’s rest since he accepted the position. Vice president Rich Veres agreed to lead fundraising efforts to modernize the very structure these folks built 20 years ago.

Well, as Monty Python once said, I’m not dead yet! I will be working hard for the next few years helping Rich and his committee raise funds for The Bay Village Foundation Play in Bay project. Depending upon some donors coming to assist in sponsoring the project we could complete it in two years, it might take five years to raise $85,000 needed to update the whole property of the much-loved Play in Bay. 

The project is for future children of Bay, but it also is in honor of the work that was done 20 years ago to bring it to life. If you are interested in helping with the project please email me at or write a note of interest to The Bay Village Fdn, P.O. Box 40122, Bay Village, OH 44140.

Best wishes to the executive committee of The Bay Village Foundation: Al Paulus, Rich Veres, Maryann O’Reilly, Barbara Waddle, Wayne Reese and Evelyn Allen.

Eileen Vernon

Trustee and past President of The Bay Village Foundation. Retired lawyer. Resident of Bay Village  over 31 years.

Read More on Community Service
Volume 7, Issue 16, Posted 9:38 AM, 08.18.2015