Philanthropists, Businesses Honored for Support of Mill Creek

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Mahoning Valley natives can rattle off a list of fond memories of growing up in the city and chances are, quite a few were created in Mill Creek Park.

Several local business leaders and philanthropists were honored for their support of the park system during the Volney Rogers Legacy awards ceremony Wednesday afternoon, presented by the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation.

All the leaders honored emphasized one central point: the importance of the Mill Creek MetroParks system.

The Youngstown Foundation and the John and Joanne Beeghly family were given the Volney Rogers Legacy award. The award, which was created in 2006, is reserved for those who show dedication to the MetroParks and its programs.

David Beeghly of the John and Joanne Beeghly family, left, and Lynette Forde of the Youngstown Foundation.

Lynette Forde, president of the Youngstown Foundation, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

“The Volney Rogers Legacy award is really a part of the history and legacy of the Valley and honoring the Youngstown Foundation for its 104 years of service to the community — it just means the world to us,” Forde said.

The Youngstown Foundation has supported the park through several monetary gifts, including a donation of $100,000 in early 2021, Forde said. The donation went towards a $3.5-million project to renovate and upgrade the Ford Nature Center.

Mill Creek Park represents hope and positivity in Youngstown, Forde said.

“It represents healing and health. It represents recreation for the community,” Forde said. “It’s a part of who we are.”

David Beeghly, son of John and Joanne Beeghly, accepted the award on behalf of his family. Mill Creek MetroParks received a $175,000 gift from the family for the refurbishment of the trail system surrounding Lake Newport.

The funding supports a $250,000 capital improvement project for the primitive trail system, known as the Newport Loop. All funding for this project will be provided by donations.

The project will see the installation of new drainage systems along the trails, surface improvements, as well as erosion control, and enhancements at the trailheads. Also included will be improvements to existing retaining walls, borders, and stone steps, much of which were constructed by the WPA during the 1930s.

The family has supported the park system for decades, Beeghly said, adding that the award belongs to those who came before him.

“I wouldn’t say it’s given to me. It’s given to our family and the generations before who’ve given to the park. I think it’s important for us to give back and to think of Youngstown and the park,” Beeghly said.

The Joanne F. Beeghly Rose Garden in the Fellows Riverside Gardens was dedicated to the late matriarch of the family, Joanne, in 2018. The family donated $215,300 to benefit the continued care and maintenance of the rose garden.

PARTNERS IN THE PARK

Five local businesses were presented with the inaugural Partners in the Park award — a token of the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation’s appreciation for their support.

The five businesses honored were:

• Boardman Subaru
• The Youngstown Clothing Company
• Noble Creature Cask House
• The Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association
• The Premier Bank Foundation

The new award was created to honor the businesses that “knock on the door” to support the park system. “The award is kind of unique, it’s only for businesses. And those businesses have found creative ways to support the MetroParks,” said Chris Litton, director of development at Mill Creek MetroParks.

Josh Toot, Mahoning Valley Market president of Premier Bank, said the park is a pillar in the community and played an important role in his upbringing.

“I grew up playing baseball, sled riding, playing with my friends — the park is extremely important to our area. I think we all know that,” Toot said. “We’re lucky to live in Youngstown, and we’re lucky to have the park.”

Premier Bank makes an annual monetary donation to the park system, Toot said.

The Youngstown Clothing Co. created a line of t-shirts to honor Mill Creek MetroParks, and 10% of the proceeds directly goes to the park district. Tim Petrey, a representative of the company on behalf of founder Matt McClure, said the company partners with “iconic brands of Youngstown,” like the park.

“The park is the gem of Youngstown, we’re so lucky to have this park,” Petrey said. “I grew up on the west side of Youngstown . . . it’s been a huge part of our lives. So I hope that we can continue to support the park.”

Boardman Subaru raised more than $3,500 and planted 200 trees for the park district thanks to its “Subaru Loves Earth” initiative last April to plant a tree for every car sold, John Stanko, vice president, said.

“Our employees and our customers were extremely excited to hear that we’re partnering with them,” Stanko said. “That’s really an honor. My kids are going to grow up and see these trees and most of our employees, our general manager, we all grew up around here. So it’s very important, personally, to all of us and we love to be a part of it.”

The Rocky Ridge Neighbors began a collaborating with Mill Creek MetroParks in 2012 to tap the trees in the Charles S. Robinson Maple Grove, located to the west of the Wick Recreation Area.

The maple grove, named after a former Mill Creek park commissioner, was planted in 1951. The neighbors had the idea of tapping the trees and distributing the syrup proceeds to the park as well as other projects that will benefit the surrounding area.

The maple syrup “sells like hotcakes,” according to Rocky Ridge Neighbors president John Slanina. The group has donated $40,000 with $25,000 of that going towards the parks.

“It’s important to support the park because they are a neighbor. We are surrounded by the park in our neighborhood at Rocky Ridge. And we think that when they flourish, we do also,” Slanina said. “It’s also important for our neighbors because we create a sense of community. When we’re sitting in our sugar house, making our product, chopping the wood collecting the sap, we build community.”

Noble Creature Cask House created a series of beers crafted in partnership with the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation. The first beer, a cold IPA, in the series is named “Parapet,” after the Parapet bridge at the Northside entrance of the park. The first batch sold out in six weeks.

The brewery recently announced the second beer in the series: “Lily Pond.” The description on the company’s website says that “Lily Pond is similar in style to Parapet and yet beautifully unique, just like the various locations in the park.”

Ira and Marcy Gerhart, co-owners of the company, could not be present for the ceremony. Their website features an introduction to the Mill Creek series, including the inspiration behind it.

“This park is truly a relief and a refuge, which was especially true during the height of COVID. It’s meant a lot to have this beautiful and peaceful place to retreat to. We started trekking the park on hike and bike trails with the stroller, and over the past two years have been working on hiking every trail in the park,” they wrote.

“It is truly an amazing resource that we have here in Youngstown, and we want to help showcase to the community that it is something that we should all utilize, cherish, and respect.”

Pictured at top from left: Rocky Ridge Neighbors president John Slanina; Bill D’Avignon, member of Rocky Ridge Neighbors; Josh Toot, Mahoning Valley Market president of Premier Bank; Tim Petrey, Youngstown Clothing Co. business development partner; John Stanko, vice president of Boardman Subaru; Don Nameth, general manager of Boardman Subaru.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.