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Barbara Kelly, Nell Standridge and Sally Smartt in the Delano Park Rose Garden.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Barbara Kelly, Nell Standridge and Sally Smartt in the Delano Park Rose Garden.

Freedom Award to honor park trio

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

Barbara Kelly, Sally Smartt and Nell Standridge obviously never learned the definition of “No.”

Otherwise, they would never have started a simple beautification project that grew into a complex process of long-term planning, fundraising and construction to knit together the dreams of residents from every walk of life.

They started with no money, no experience and no list of contacts who could help them.

Though initially cautious of working together, the former artist, former Latin teacher and former telephone customer service representative dove into an effort to transform a patch of dirt and weeds at Delano Park into, well, anything that wasn’t such an eyesore.

Their efforts not only led to an awe-inspiring rose garden, but also motivated the community of rich and poor, black and white to enhance the entire park and restore its reputation as a family gathering place.

Their achievement earned them this year’s Barrett Shelton Freedom Award, which annually recognizes outstanding service to community or state. They will receive the award in a ceremony that starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Point Mallard Park during the 41st Spirit of America festival.

“We weren’t sure what we could do, but we knew we could make it beautiful again,” Kelly recalled of what was on their minds when they started the effort in September 2000.

It didn’t take long for others to join, and Friends of Delano Park was born.

They put together a mission statement that expanded their goals of restoring the rose garden to developing a master plan for enhancing the entire park.

Smartt credits Kelly for energizing the group from the outset by researching what other citizen groups accomplished as well as uncovering the rich history of the park.

Kelly’s discoveries helped persuade the Alabama Historical Commission to give $10,000 for developing a master plan drawn by landscape architects. It would be first of many grants, totaling nearly $1 million, they would acquire for the park.

Coupled with nearly $400,000 in private donations, that money has allowed Friends to:

  • Repair the stone wall and gazebo.

  • Build a Splashpad water play area where a wading pool historically lay.

  • Plant 46 trees.

  • Erect a new stone sign at Sixth Avenue Southeast.

  • Start installing a paved trail of history.

  • Restore the rose garden, framed by a $120,000 wooden pergola.

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