04/29/09 — Civilian/U.S. Air Force collaboration prompts new play equipment

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Civilian/U.S. Air Force collaboration prompts new play equipment

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 29, 2009 1:46 PM

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Jason Lewis and Robert Ennis work to construct playground equipment at Meadow Lane Elementary School. The equipment was acquired from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, which was replacing the pieces in base housing, and was reinstalled at the school thanks to the efforts of parents and volunteers.

A conversation between two moms on the playground has turned into a new set of equipment being installed at their children's school.

Brenda Volk, president of the Meadow Lane Elementary School PTA, recalls the fortuitous conversation that sparked the effort.

"I was just talking to one of the moms on the playground -- Diana Debree whose husband is a colonel (Dan Debree) on the base," she said. "We were talking about what they're doing with the leftovers on the base playground, and that got the ball rolling."

In base housing at Seymour Johnson, some of the playground equipment was being replaced. Mrs. Volk's rhetorical question about what would become of the discarded equipment resulted in a community effort.

"We went to the meetings on base, kind of pled our case," she said.

The donation was simple enough, but required a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make it happen, said Stacey Doulin, PTA treasurer.

"We initiated a 'Change the Playground' program the beginning of the year, collected change throughout the school year for the project," she said. "We have had a lot of fundraising going on with the playground in mind.

"The county really came together. At one point, it looked like it wasn't going to happen."

In the fall, nearly two dozen volunteers came out and worked on repairs to make the equipment safer until the new pieces could be intalled, Mrs. Doulin said.

Told it would cost $16,000 to move the equipment from the base and install it, county and school officials were enlisted to help.

"We came together with the base. (They) had their Corps of Engineers take them down," said Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services. "I got a licensed contractor ,and Wayne County Board of Eduation did their part. They approved moving them and setting them back up."

The process actually started months ago, Hill said, before the economy plummeted and school funding was even more stringent.

"They gave (the equipment) to us. We felt like it was a small investment," said Hill, who credited the district's maintenance staff with handling the removal of the old playground equipment at Meadow Lane.

The county took care of a good amount, providing some funds and having everything checked out by the county inspector.

Within the next few weeks, a "whole new playground" will be in place, Mrs. Doulin said.

And the donations have continued. Local Cub Scout Pack 911 plans to build new benches, and the Officers and Civilians Spouses Club has donated $3,000 to the project, she added.

Concrete was poured last week for the swings. Donated sand and mulch will "surround" some of the equipment as padding -- and will be added next.

It was very much needed, she said -- some of the equipment at the school could be up to 50 years old, other pieces in disrepair. But with all the budget cuts, it was absolutely unexpected that the school would be in a position to replace what it had.

"We counted it up how much all of the swing sets and everything would cost, and it would be over $70,000 to do this job," said Mrs. Volk. "So that's a huge undertaking -- four new slides, four swing sets, three new basketball hoops, a multi-playground unit. ... We're all just bubbling with excitement."

Pretty amazing what a few offhanded comments can do, and what the efforts of many can produce, she said.

"What resources we have and what we can do with what we have got," she said.