LAWRENCEVILLE -- A decade ago, Mike and Peggy Levengood and some friends knew Gwinnett would need a little help with its growing park system.
So they set up a foundation to gather volunteers to help out twice a year to clean up the parks.
But they had no idea an economic collapse and straining government would mean the parks system would need more friends than ever.
"It's more important today than ever to try to find ways to support our award-winning parks system," said Levengood, a Lilburn attorney who coached his sons when they were young.
The Gwinnett Parks Foundation has always had a fundraising arm, which used funds from an annual race to give scholarships to kids and seniors who can't afford to participate in sports and other programs.
And a series of $10,000 grants from REI have allowed the group to repair trails and other projects.
Recently, the foundation has stepped up to raise money for a new playground at Little Mulberry Park.
The idea began as a memorial to Karina Miller, the mother of one of the foundation's board members whose family once owned much of the land that became Little Mulberry Park.
The northern portion of the park has a preserve dedicated in Miller's honor, and the design for the playground has slides that look like tree trunks and other natural features.
A September event raised about $22,000, but that is only a portion of the costs.
Phil Hoskins, the director of Gwinnett's community services, said the foundation-organized "Parknership" days each year have meant a lot to the community, and the fundraising could help even more.
"With the continued decline in the tax digest and resulting budget reductions, Gwinnett County Parks & Recreation will need on-going support from the Parks Foundation and other community partners to maintain quality services," he said.
To donate, go to www.gwinnettparksfoundation.org and click on the top right tab that says "Donate."