FLORENCE — The Florence-Carlton track and field project shot out of the starting blocks Monday morning when it received its first grant — a $10,000 check — from Missoula Electric Co-Op.
Parent volunteer Mel Goeltz and member of the Florence-Carlton Parent Organization, which is spearheading the fundraising and planning along with the Florence Booster Club, said its a great first step in the process.
"Looking toward the future for the big picture this is where we needed to start," Goeltz said. "The way our community works is a wonderful network, and a friend of a friend recommended we look at Missoula Electric Co-Op as an opportunity for our first grant."
Missoula Electric Co-Op's president of the board Susan Thraen, and 30-year resident of Florence, was eager to help.
"...The community over the years has really just poured their hearts and souls into making this community the best it can be, (and now) you look at the track and you go, ‘Wow, this track is pretty primitive,’" said Thraen. "You look at communities like Frenchtown, which is very similar to Florence. That’s a rural community spread out and you look at the Frenchtown track (and its high quality) and you think, 'Wow.'
"It’s motivating to Florence to say if they can do it, we can do it. We’re thrilled to help them get started and get kicked off."
The $10,000 grant starts a fundraising process Goeltz said she expects could top out around $1 million.
But the plan does more than just resurface a dirt track — one that turns to mud with each rain and often fills with deep ruts after the winter.
The group's vision includes a new concessions area, warming rooms and makes the entire complex around the football field ADA accessible. It puts in a dedicated discus, shot put, pole vault and javelin area and will help tie in the already renovated softball field and planned practice fields into one glistening sports complex.
The project wont just cater to track and field athletes, either, as the school's physical education classes can use the facility, as well as the public.
"This whole track renovation project is for the entire community," Goeltz said. "We envision the students using it for their physical education programs, we envision the athletes using it for their athletic programs, we also envision it as a local community space."
And similar to the softball "Field of Dreams" project, a different project that renovated Florence's softball field and was finished earlier this spring, the track and field project will use nonprofit fundraising efforts, grants, private and business donations to pay for the entire plan.
"We have amazing parents. The parents really care about the kids and the community and the school and they want this to be the best facility it possibly can," Superintendent Bud Scully said. "We had all those parents that worked on the softball complex and now that’s motivated the parents associated with track and also the parents that are associated with football.
"We passed the (school) bond, but we didn’t include really anything in there for athletics and the sports or playground facilities for middle school and high school and the parents have stepped up and said, ‘Well, let’s get this done.’"
That's what makes Monday's monetary donation so special. It's a sign that the Florence community's dreams are about to become a reality.
"That’s the name of the game when you’re in a small town," Goeltz said. "The heart and commitment of the general community, specifically the parents and the students and the administration, the faculty, everybody here wants to make this a better place for the kids."