Working so the kids can play

200 volunteers put up a playground on 2 acres in Annapolis

October 08, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,Special to The Sun

At dawn, the lot in the new Kingsport community in Annapolis was bare save for the holes.

By the end of the day Thursday, there stood a playground of two twisty slides, a swing set, a climbing wall, monkey bars and more, all in bright yellow, blue and green.

In between, about 200 volunteers descended on the 2-acre site.

Among them was Paul Raines, president of the Southern Division for Home Depot, who came from Atlanta to help shovel mulch.

"We do a lot of playgrounds," said Raines, who was in town specifically to volunteer. "I'm doing another one next week in Atlanta."

Home Depot has partnered with KaBOOM, a nonprofit organization that has organized volunteer construction of about 1,000 playgrounds across the country in its 10 years of existence.

In July, KaBOOM officials met with about a dozen local children, asking for ideas and drawings about the playground. Those ideas were incorporated in the final design, which also has benches and a community bulletin board.

Eventually, there will be playing fields for sports.

"We've been working pretty much nonstop," LeeAnn Plumer, director of the Annapolis Department of Recreation and Parks, said at 1:30 p.m., as she surveyed the scene of people fitting together equipment, planting flowers and more. By that time, the swings and slides were already up, and the climbing wall and community bulletin boards were nearly done.

Jennifer McGee, who lives in Kingsport and has three kids, ages 7, 9 and 13, was one of the area residents volunteering.

For the past two months, she's been working with Plumer, helping to line up volunteers and coordinate other logistics. On Thursday, she was gratified to see everything come together.

"It's going to be great," she said, taking a break from shoveling mulch.

Moving the enormous pile of mulch - more officially known as engineered wood fiber - seemed to be the most time-consuming task, one that Raines seemed happy to tackle.

"I tend to work on the mulch," he said. "It's the best exercise."

The task got much easier once members of the Naval Academy's basketball team showed up.

Volunteers, including about 150 people from Home Depot stores in the area, started work around 9 a.m. When they arrived, they were given name tags and assignments. Stephanie Nelson, the KaBOOM project manager, said the idea is to form teams of people who don't already know each other.

"A lot of our process is building community," she said. "People get to meet their neighbors. We find that the playgrounds are better taken care of because people have a stake in them."

Nelson, who is based in Chicago, flew in for the volunteer day, just as she came in for "design day" over the summer. She'd been in town since Monday night, she said, helping inventory the components from Pennsylvania-based Playworld Systems, getting the site ready.

All the holes were dug in advance, she said, and the only tools used on Thursday were drills, she said. Nelson said she's a certified playground safety inspector, and both she and another inspector would examine the equipment and make sure it's safe.

"KaBOOM's developed a great system over the past 10 years," she said.

Though construction was finished Thursday, the playground would be off-limits until tomorrow, so the concrete would have time to dry.

Though kids weren't allowed to play yet, the adults seemed to be having plenty of fun. It was an ideal day for outdoor work - cloudy and cool. Music played all day, catered food was available, and at one point, a group of about 15 people broke off to do the electric slide.

Montina Johnson, who lives nearby, spent most of the day helping construct a community bulletin board.

"It's just a pleasure to be able to help," she said.

Pam Croghan, assistant manager at the Home Depot in Upper Marlboro, had a long couple of days ahead of her. After working on the playground all day, she would head to the store for a 3 p.m.-to-11 p.m. shift. Then she would start work at 5 a.m. the next day, she said. She chose those hours so she would be able to volunteer, she said. As a parent, the Annapolis resident said, building a playground is close to her heart.

"It's a good feeling," she said, resting on her rake handle as she paused from her mulch disbursement. "I'm a single mom with two kids. They've always had a park to go to. Kids need a park, and mothers need a place to take the kids."

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