La Jolla’s parks welcome new fundraising advocate

The effort to bridge the gap between the funding the city provides to the La Jolla parks and the recreation center and the amount of money needed to maintain the facilities is under new leadership for the first time in decades.

For 25 years, La Jolla Parks and Rec, a private organization that raises funds for the center, was led by Walt Hall. Hall was known throughout La Jolla and was effective in helping raise the $50,000 per year beyond what the city provides and is necessary to staff and maintain parks and the recreation center, said Hobe Schroeder, president of La Jolla Parks and Rec. Hall recently moved from La Jolla to Portland, where he says he intends to help improve parks.

“Walt Hall leaving was a big loss for us,” Schroeder said. “But we have a new fund-raiser now and we’ll be trying to raise our profile.”

Julie Scarpella, president of the La Jolla Tennis Club, has stepped forward to fill the voluntary role of head fund-raiser for La Jolla Parks and Rec.

“She has raised funds effectively for the Tennis Club and for her church,” Schroeder said. “Her main focus may be different from Walt’s. He went from business to business, and everyone in town knew him. (Scarpella) is new, and she is interested in trying to sign up larger sponsors, like corporations and foundations.”

Scarpella said the hours her children spent at the Recreation Center on Prospect Street were an inspiration to get involved with La Jolla Parks and Rec.

“I would never say I could ever fill Walt Hall’s shoes,” Scarpella said. “He’s done such amazing things. But I do want to help. My kids played there. I know people with kids take it for granted that the sand is clean, the bathrooms are open and the basketball courts are nice.”

The need for additional funding for La Jolla’s parks, including Kellogg Park in the Shores and Scripps Park at La Jolla Cove, and the recreation center became greater this year with city cuts in parks funding, Schroeder said.

“The city has no money,” he said. “If we want toilet paper, we can’t even go to the area manager for the city. We have to have to ask for it from a regional manager.”

Schroeder said the center has been able to maintain its hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, thanks to funds raised by La Jolla Parks and Rec, while city budget cuts have reduced hours at recreation centers elsewhere. He said one check from a local organization covered half the fund-raising needs for the year, a windfall the organization could not count on every year.

“We got lucky,” he said. “That’s never happened before. That’s the biggest check from a foundation ever.”

Scarpella will work to see that it happens again. For the last three years, she has been in charge of attracting sponsorship for the Tennis Club’s annual tournament, which consists of some 900 players. Mercedes Benz sponsored the tournament last year.

Twice in the last three years, Scarpella has chaired the fund-raiser for All Hallows Academy, where her kids went to school.

Scarpella does not yet have a specific plan for raising funds for parks and the recreation center, but she said she’ll be careful not to wear out her welcome.

“I’m still trying to figure out a good pattern. My main concern would be people getting tired of seeing my name,” she said. “I have to be careful about how I approach the community asking for support, because people get hit up every day.”

When Schroeder approached Scarpella about filling the volunteer position, the decision to help was easy, Scarpella said.

“I love raising money,” she said. “It’s my passion. I just have a thing for it. If I can do that to help, then that’s what my job is right now.”

Scarpella said she was confident that La Jolla could satisfy the funding needs of the parks and the recreation center if La Jolla Parks and Rec does a good job of explaining exactly what is needed.

“If we make the community aware of what we need, they are more than willing to help,” she said. “But you have to ask.”

Call the center at (858) 552-1658.