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Playground Build Goes On

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 9.14.01 AMBecause it rained for five straight days last week, the building of the Heart of the City Playground in Dogwood Park was slowed, but never stopped. Hundreds of volunteers did their best. Wet. Muddy. Tired. Dirty. They kept working and it wasn’t their fault, but the playground wasn’t completed by Sunday night as scheduled. So it’ll be finished this weekend: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

One man was amazed by what happened last week. Doug was the lead contractor from the playground construction company, Leathers and Associates. Sunday afternoon when I talked with him, he said, “This community did great. People hung in and persevered. Like that first afternoon when rain poured down and we started setting poles, it’s atypical to have people who stay. They didn’t leave. And others came. ”

Doug has led many playground-building projects throughout the United States and in foreign countries. I asked, “So have you encountered weather like this during other builds?”

“Yes, and I’ve been in places when it got down to six people. Not here. People stayed and more came. All week. It’s an incredible community! You should be proud. I am,” Doug said.

“And I’m really proud of the young people who are the leaders this project,” I said.

“You should be. Great young leaders.”

Virginia Kirby is one of those leaders, captain of the art committee, which is responsible for all the decorative designs to be attached to the playground equipment. Those volunteers have worked outside under tents and inside buildings, as space permitted. Like others, who worked 12-14 hour days, Virginia was exhausted, but she met a woman who kept her going.

Virginia posted her story on Facebook and allowed me to share it. “Up for the sixth day of the hardest week of my life. I’m about to put on overalls that are still damp from yesterday. My feet are throbbing. It would be so easy to go back to bed and just say that I’ve given enough of myself already. But I met a mother in the dinner line. She was muddy up to her thighs, having spent hours outside on the worksite. I felt guilty that I was clean and explained how art had to move inside so the paint would dry. She said she could only work one shift because it was hard to find a babysitter. She explained that her four-year-old son has seizures, uses a wheelchair, and had recent surgery. This playground will be the first place for him to really play. She wanted to do anything she could to help, even move mud by the shovelful from one place to another in the pouring rain. That way she could be part of giving her son a playground he can use.

“So, if you’re wondering why we are out in the very cold rain for fourteen hours each day; why we don’t just give up and say it’s not worth being that uncomfortable–that’s why. This playground means a lot to me, but it will mean everything to some families.”

Round two of playground building is Friday, October 9, 5:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Kelly Swallows, one of the playground co-chairman, said, “We especially need strong arms and skilled laborers. And other workers, too. If you can come out, please do!”

I’m not surprised that work never stopped. I’m proud of the volunteers who worked one four-hour shift and those who worked day after day. And I’m sure workers will show up this weekend. Cookeville is an incredible community.


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