We say, "It starts with a playground," and Eureka, Calif. resident Ruth Robertson (pictured at right) is here to attest that a playground is indeed only the beginning. Ruth first got involved with KaBOOM! in 2008 when she found out that we were helping to build a playground in the park across her street. Here, in Ruth's words, is what happened next:
“When our councilmember got with KaBOOM!, he invited the community out to a meeting about it. I attended with my son, and that’s the first time in my life when I was actually included in something in my community.
I came out to the Design Day, joined the planning committee. I was like, 'What do you need?' I was there. On Build Day, I was the concrete team Build Captain—I volunteered for that because no one else would. That build changed my life—I got involved in my community.
I went on to volunteering... political campaigning in some of the roughest areas of Eureka. I knocked on doors in these really rough parts of town, but I saw all aspects of life, I saw poverty, I saw single parents not having a place to go to play... for them to then come to Hammond Park—the second most used park in Eureka—that’s like 15 blocks away, but they walk it!
Two years later I organized Spruce Up Hammond Park Day—man, the city resisted and resisted and then I finally we just did it, had a 100 volunteers show up, and we re-painted, planted trees, it was great... just great! To see people walk by, stop and volunteer. Other play opportunities often charge for recreation but this place was free and for all of us.
When you see kids coming from broken homes, they don’t have a choice… they can’t be instrumental in change but when you see that people care enough to say, ‘We wanna make a difference,’ when you give them a safe place to play, it speaks volumes. It tells them you can do whatever you want.”
Volunteers are hard at work on 'Spruce Up Hammond Park Day.'
Does your playground need a spruce-up? Follow the lead of these three inspiring communities, who have used Let's Play Spruce Grants to clean, paint, and green their playspaces:
Julian, Calif.: On June 17, 2011, 20 seventh and eighth graders volunteered during their summer vacation to help re-paint black top games at the elementary school’s "Peaceful Playground." The idea for the project originated during the previous school year when these middle-school students volunteered one lunch hour per week to mentor elementary-school students during recess, helping them to peacefully resolve conflicts while developing positive relationships with the younger students.This school year, the 7th graders will be offering a similar mentorship experience on the newly spruced-up playground.
Houston, Tex.: On August 20, 2011, a diverse, 14-person Spruce Team gathered for four hours to plant new heat-loving plants, rake out the engineered wood fiber, and pick up trash and debris around the playground. In spite of the oppressive heat, the atmosphere was one of good cheer and thoughtful collaboration between the school community and local businesses. Thanks to the hard work of these volunteers, over 450 children came back to find their school playground looking as good as it did when it was first built four years ago.
Providence, R.I.: After Hurricane Irene, a neighborhood team organized a 24-hour "heal-a-thon" for Brown Street Park. They used social media (Twitter and Facebook) and their website to get the word out. Over 45 volunteers respond to this plea throughout the 24-36 hour period. They piled up debris, moved dead tree limbs out of the way, cleaned up the plant beds, weeded, picked up trash, cleaned graffiti, and installed new garden signs. Children were encouraged to help! And help they did! Today the beloved community park is looking better than ever.