The Joplin Head Start Center was a flurry of activity Saturday as volunteers built a new playground from scratch in just six hours.
“There’s a will-do, can-do attitude,” project manager Naudy Martinez said of the volunteers, “and that’s exactly what we need.”
More than 300 people turned out to construct the new playground at the Head Start Center, 1200 N. Main St. The project was a collaboration between KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that focuses on play for children, and the PNC Foundation, which is part of PNC Financial Services Group, based in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The playground includes several slides, climbers and tunnels.
In addition, volunteers also built and installed six picnic tables, a sandbox, two shade structures, an outdoor classroom, a paved pathway and a butterfly garden. Teams of volunteers were spread throughout the playground in a sort of assembly line, with each team overseeing one task.
Dennis Siefers, a PNC vice president, said approximately 150 of the volunteers were PNC associates and their families from the Kansas City and Little Rock, Ark., areas.
“This is the stuff that we do in the community to have fun,” he said.
Ann Adams, the Joplin center’s supervisor, said the playground had needed an overhaul. The swing sets will remain, she said, but the previous playground equipment was at least 20 years old, and the slides had begun to crack.
“I’d say thank you, but there’s just no words to express,” she said. “I guess the thank-yous will come when you see the kids out here playing.”
Jeff Goldammer, director of Head Start, said the support from volunteers for Saturday’s build was “overwhelming.” By midmorning, his team was beginning to pour concrete bases for the posts of the playground equipment.
“It’s standing upright, so that’s a good sign,” he joked. “The kids are going to be so excited to see this, I think.”
Volunteer Mike Steele, of Joplin, was part of a team constructing a large sandbox in one corner of the playground.
“Everybody chips in,” he said. “We just pitch in and help. It’s just amazing what’s been done.”
Nick Barnett, of Joplin, volunteered by picking up trash and taking empty water bottles to be recycled. His 5-year-old son is a graduate of Head Start, and his 4-year-old daughter will start there later this month.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for the community and the kids, especially after the May 22 (2011) tornado,” he said. “It just keeps the momentum going, as far as what we can all do when we get together.”
Misti Scott, a teacher at the center, said she thinks her students will enjoy both the playground and the Imagination Station, a separate, recently installed playground full of big rubber parts that can be assembled in a variety of ways.
“To have a new playground here for our kids is just wonderful,” she said, thanking the groups who made the project possible. “We will utilize all of these things and appreciate them more than they will ever know.”
Financing for the project came from the PNC Foundation, whose “Grow Up Great” initiative provides learning and development opportunities for young children. KaBOOM! has constructed more than 2,100 playgrounds across the country.
More than 50 youngsters from the Joplin Head Start Center offered suggestions in May for the design of the playground, while parents chose the actual pieces for the playground based on their children’s drawings, said Naudy Martinez, a KaBOOM! project manager.