Organizers WOWed with results of new Elkhart playground

Volunteers completed work on Central Christian Church's community playground and gardens Saturday.
Posted on June 3, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

Jake Simpson assembled the seat on a swing Saturday at Central Christian Church’s new community park and his biggest struggle appeared to be keeping his daughter, Jyllian, from testing it out.

Less than 24 hours after installing seven play stations in the new playground, Simpson and more than two dozen volunteers spent part of Saturday putting the final touches on the long-sought community project.

Keeping kids off the equipment for the prescribed 72 hours while the cement dries looked to be the final challenge for those behind the WOW Community Park and Garden Project.

“I’m pretty certain most of the kids won’t adhere to that rule,” Simpson said.

After two days of cool, rainy conditions, Saturday’s sunshine added an extra gleam to the sparkling new playground equipment as volunteers buzzed around the 4,400-square-foot playground. Many worked Saturday to spread a specialized mulch delivered in large batches by a whirling Bobcat.

Simpson, who said he’s worked previously on Habitat for Humanity projects and church mission trips, was struck by the entire effort.

“This is by far the funnest things I’ve still done to date,” Simpson said.

What was different?

“It’s for the children,” Simpson said. “Not just for a family, but for the whole community.”

Work on the project was slated for Friday and Saturday, but workers got a head start Thursday with the help of people associated with Habitat For Humanity. Efforts to complete the work were ahead of schedule by Saturday.

Project organizer Jim Piechorowski said the speedy efforts of volunteers underscored the community’s commitment to the project that will benefit residents living just west of downtown Elkhart.

“Wow,” Piechorowski said. “Thank you, God.”

“Nobody does this on their own. It’s done by people working for a common cause, and the common cause was building something for these kids to have a safe place to come and play and keep them out of the hands of bad elements,” Piechorowski said.

After leveling the ground north of the church, workers stretched a protective screen across to keep out weeds, and that was topped off with 12 inches of mulch specifically designed for playgrounds to prevent injuries when kids fall, said Dan Downey, sales associate with Miracle Recreation, a Okemos, Mich., company that supplied the equipment and designed the playground.

Black edging around the perimeter of the playground helps retain the mulch and is made of recycled plastic, he said.

Along with the playground equipment, volunteers installed picnic tables and two raised garden beds. New basketball and volleyball courts are also part of the plan.

Much of the equipment was designed to be handicap accessible, Downey said.

Saturday’s work culminates more than a year of effort to raise money for the project and stems from the church’s growing child ministry that began in 1995 with an after-school program known as Way Out Wednesdays.

Church officials now hope to expand programming for children beyond the normal after-school program.

Donations for the project came from different sources, including the Dr Pepper-Snapple Group, the Congregational Church Charitable Fund, the Beck Family Memorial and Homan Lumber.

The equipment has a modern, metal tubular style.

“The play equipment is extremely sturdy,” Piechorowski said. “We tried to buy things that are very difficult to vandalize. There’s not a whole lot you can do with that pole. You can spray it with another color paint if you’re a really nasty person, but other than that ...”

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