The Osceola Area Chamber and Main Street Program’s Picnic-to-Go initiative has been selected to receive the first of AARP Wisconsin’s “Small Dollar, Big Impact” grants. 

Worth $1,000 apiece, the grants are being awarded monthly to projects around the state designed to improve communities and make them better places for everyone to live, work and play as they age. 

The Picnic-to-Go initiative in Osceola looks to promote tourism and local business while also taking into consideration the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing efforts that go along with it. The chamber will create a map showing parks and other green spaces around Osceola where families can picnic. Local restaurants will then be given ‘picnic-to-go kits’ that include the map, tablecloth and other picnicking essentials that can be offered to any customers who order take out food. 

“They can just take that to go and throw it on a picnic table or sit on it,” said Germaine Ross, the executive director of the Osceola Area Chamber of Commerce. “Osceola is just a natural fit for picnics. We have all this beautiful outdoors space and gorgeous parks and hiking trails.”

Judges selected the project for the grant after receiving more than five dozen proposals from communities across Wisconsin. The judging panel identified the uniqueness of the Osceola proposal, which connects the community, utilizes public spaces and supports small businesses. It also has the potential to create a program that could be done in the future, even though it’s designed to respond to COVID-19 impacts.

AARP Wisconsin State Director Sam Wilson said the Picnic-to-go initiative is exactly what they were looking for in an applicant. 

“The project in Osceola fits perfectly with the spirit and intent of the grant program,” he said. “Our goal is to support communities as they make positive changes that inspire long-term progress on livable issues. This project hits that nail right on the head.”

Ross said the chamber is hoping to hold a kick off event for the picnic-to-go initiative, which is tentatively scheduled for July 23. The event would include a socially distanced community picnic in one of the parks around town, but would also be a day to encourage all Osceola residents to have picnics of their own in their yards or other outdoor spaces around town if they’re not comfortable attending a public gathering. 

“That way they can connect with the community,” Ross said. “That’s what people are missing right now, connecting with the community.” 

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