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Bel Air commissioners thank Dreshers, student for community contributions

Jim Dresher Jr., a trustee for and son of the founders of The Dresher Foundation, speaks during a recent Bel Air commissioners' meeting after receiving a proclamation in honor of the foundation's contributions. With him are Bel Air Mayor Rober Reier and Dresher's wife, Patti, president of the foundation board.
Jim Dresher Jr., a trustee for and son of the founders of The Dresher Foundation, speaks during a recent Bel Air commissioners' meeting after receiving a proclamation in honor of the foundation's contributions. With him are Bel Air Mayor Rober Reier and Dresher's wife, Patti, president of the foundation board. (DAVID ANDERSON | AEGIS STAFF)

Members of the Dresher family were honored last week for their contributions to the Town of Bel Air through the family's Dresher Foundation.

Bel Air town officials presented family members with a proclamation and held a reception after their meeting Oct. 20.

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Several town leaders, including Town Administrator Jim Fielder, had already spent that morning with the Dreshers at The John Carroll School for a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction of the Bel Air private school's new athletic fields, a project to which the Dreshers contributed funds.

"To start a day and end a day with the same kind of theme throughout is really cool," Fielder said during the reception at Bel Air Town Hall.

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The Dresher Foundation was created in 1989 by Bel Air resident James Dresher Sr. and his wife, Virginia. It is headquartered in Baltimore County.

Jim and Virginia Dresher have died, but their descendants and their descendants' spouses have carried on their legacy of giving though grants to nonprofit organizations.

The Bel Air commissioners honored the family and foundation Monday for funds they have provided, starting with a $100,000 grant in 2013 to improve Shamrock Park. Those improvements include upgrades to the amphitheater as well as the pathways through the park, benches and tables, new playground equipment and timer locks that allow people to use the restrooms during the day, according to the proclamation.

"It's nice to have the parks system that we do have here in Bel Air, and certainly the upgrades that we've been able to add to Shamrock have been just outstanding," Mayor Robert Reier said.

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The Shamrock Park project was the result of foundation officials wanting to fund a project of their choosing, rather than just funding requests from the community, Patti Dresher, president of the foundation's board and daughter-in-law of the founders, said.

She said that, during a retreat, "we decided that, wouldn't it be fun to give to something that everyone gets to use?"

Dresher said town officials had developed a number of ideas for improvements to Shamrock Park by the time they met to discuss the grant.

"We just happened to have a meeting of the minds, and it all worked and we were able to fund it," she said.

Planning Director Kevin Small described the ongoing project for the park, which has received partial funding from the Dresher Foundation. The project involves installing a fountain donated by Bel Air residents Kathleen and William Bacon in the flag court next to the amphitheater.

He noted other organizations, such as the Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, the Bel Air Lions Club and the town have contributed their own improvements to the park in the wake of the Dreshers' contributions.

"We started to notice some things that we need to take care of, so we're really kind of paid forward," Small said.

Reier presented the proclamation to Patti Dresher and her husband, Jim Dresher Jr., a foundation trustee, during the commissioners' regular meeting.

He said the commissioners "wish to express our gratitude to the foundation and its staff for the generous contribution that made Shamrock Park a jewel in the town for years to come."

"A lot of the work we do – which is very good work – is reactive, so it's in response to a particular need," Jim Dresher said. "We wanted to do something here that's proactive."

He added: "Certainly I think any major municipality, or any minor municipality, will tell you that the quality of parks is related to the quality of life in those communities."

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