News

A new place to play

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Woodlands Elementary School students have a new playground to enjoy thanks to a down-to-the-wire construction job that was pulled off Friday. Volunteers from several local Home Depot locations, the Navy’s SeeBees and members of the PTA worked all day to get the playground built by the PTA’s Saturday deadline.

“It’s a labor of love, it really is,” playground project coordinator Cindy Kleinfelter said.

To qualify for their $5,000 Home Depot-KaBOOM! Community-Build Playspace and Field Refurbishment Challenge Grant, the group had to have the playground constructed by

Dec. 1.

Fortunately, everyone on hand was eager and willing and some even had personal ties to the project.

“We’ve been doing this for so many years and you do so many ... so this one is really special,” Gig Harbor Home Depot employee Carrie Harding said. Harding’s boyfriend has a 7-year-old daughter at Woodlands.

“You go and you help the schools and the kids and you never really meet anybody. It’s nice to be in your own community this time,” she said.

The SeaBees involvement in the project was possibly guided by fate. Kleinfelter bumped into a friend one day whose husband does occasional work with the Navy builders and before long, contacts were made and the group was mobilized.

“It gives us a chance to show the kids that the military loves to help kids,” Master at Arms Seaman Braxton Jahner said. “That’s the one thing, we do a lot of community service.”

Plenty of work has been put in for the last year, too, by Kleinfelter and company. The Woodlands PTA raised about $13,000 to ensure that Phase 2 could be completed. The Woodlands ASB put another $2,500 into the project and the KaBOOM! grant provided another $5,000.

Phase 1 of the project was completed in December 2006. It was the first time in several years Woodlands students had any playground equipment at all. The previous playground was torn down several years ago when traces of poisonous chemicals were found within the paint.

“Basically the kids went about four years without any equipment,” Kleinfelter said.

A plea from one of her two sons, both students at Woodlands, spurred her to get a playground built.

“I think it was Alex (who) came home and he said, ‘Mommy, the PTA really needs to raise us some money and build us a playground,’ and I said, ‘I’m on it, honey.’”

Phases 3-5 will cost about $100,000 and while plans to build haven’t been cemented yet, Kleinfelter is ready to wind up the fund-raising machine again.

“I’m willing,” she said. “I would like to shoot for spring of 2009. That gives us a little hope that this next phase could be a little bigger.”

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