Volunteers build a playground in six hours.
When 300 volunteers pitch in a cumulative 1,800 man-hours’ wielding shovels, hammers, paintbrushes and rakes, an empty field can be transformed into a playground in just six hours.
That’s what happened Saturday, April 28 as Alief residents joined forces with sponsors Blue Cross Blue Shield, Texans Together, KaBoom!, and The Mint Apartments to create a safe play space for kids on the corner of Dairy Ashford and Rodeo Square Drive.
After an 8:30 a.m. kickoff presentation, adults and children from across the area started working on the vacant lot donated by the apartment complex, said Shara McClure of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“It’s amazing that you can start with a field and end up with this beautiful playground,” she added. “For kids, play is so important. When we invest in communities and in projects like this, kids are more active. It’s all part of fighting childhood obesity.”
Intermediate and high school student volunteers were “tireless” in their efforts, McClure said. Of course, occasional breaks for potato sack races, balloon tosses, and flash mob dancing made the work more fun.
Hastings High School student Nehmirah Dyson, 16, and Jeffrey Williams,12, of Youngblood Intermediate School, both said they came out to help because they have younger siblings and because “it’s the right thing to do for the kids.”
“I live out here and am a volunteer in the after-school program,” said college student Lewis Pittman, 22. “We’ve been taking small steps, but this is a giant leap.”
The Mint playground was the brainchild of “Ms. Iris” Alicea, a retired City of Houston employee now volunteering with Texans Together. Alicea also helped spearhead a community garden nearby, which was named for her during the park’s dedication ceremony.
“Everything I do, I do it with my heart,” Alicea said. “I do it for the children who need to be supported, encouraged and motivated.”
Naudy Martinez, project manager for KaBoom!, says this is the organization’s 2,088th park to be built in the United States. KaBoom! is a Washington, D.C.-based organization whose mission is to create play spaces within walking distance of every child in America.
The park, which includes playground equipment, a pergola, six garden beds, five benches, two picnic tables and an outdoor education area, took 125 cubic yards of mulch and 18,000 pounds of concrete to complete. Donations came from local businesses and organizations like the Lions Club, the International Management District, Alief Super Neighborhood Council, Keep Houston Beautiful, Academy, Costco, Party City, Shipley Donuts, Whole Foods, AAC Roofing, Home Depot, Lowes, Luby’s, Popeye’s, and Starbucks.