Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:28 PM on Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Playground 'Build Week' captain confesses 'why'

By Scott Ferrell

The Homer Playground Project "Build Week" is May 20-27 and I'm going to be there.

So are a lot of other people, of course. My participation as a volunteer is only noteworthy because I live in Anchorage, I don't have any close ties to Homer, and I don't know any of the people who are coordinating the Homer Playground Project. But I'm taking eight days of leave from my job (U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, Elmendorf Air Force Base) to come down and be a Build Captain during the playground "barn-raising" event.

It's not as crazy as it sounds.

In 2009-10, my sister Dana McDonald found herself heading up a similar community playground project in Soldotna. As that community's Build Week approached, she called me and asked if I would be willing to help out as a Build Captain.

This may lead you to think that I'm a builder or carpenter by trade. Not even close. I work with computers all day long. But she's my sister and so I said yes.

Here's what happened: I had a blast!

I had such a great time. It was a wonderful experience and the end result was so satisfying that when it was all over, I told my sister, "Let me know if you decide to build a playground in Kenai. I'll come back." She laughed. She had a great time also with the Soldotna playground, but wasn't anxious to launch another campaign.

But I was serious.

So when she heard about the Homer Playground Project, she called me. "How would you like to be a Build Captain in Homer?" she asked.

Awesome. Homer is a great town, but more than that, playgrounds are just such fun to build, when you're working alongside dozens of other people who are all having fun too (even as they work their buns off).

Like I said, I'm not a carpenter myself. But I worked with people who knew what they were doing and were very patient. I learned a lot from them and now have skills I didn't have before.

So what does a Build Week Captain do?

Well, you need to be able to direct and motivate the daily volunteers (who are already highly motivated themselves). You play an important role in the daily setup and teardown of the work site. You pitch in as your skills allow, being part of the team.

Each day is filled with excitement, anticipation and problem solving. And laughter.

One of the HoPP volunteers asked what was the best part of the Soldotna experience for me. Wow. The actual construction project was such a great experience. I made a lot of new friends.

But the best part was seeing a torn up work site transformed into a beautiful, amazing playground — and then seeing the kids rush in to play, and the big smiles on everyone's faces.

Last but not least, it was knowing that I was part of something big and special that will be enjoyed by kids and families for years and years. I feel so good about it that I'm coming to Homer to do it all over again.

The Homer Playground Project needs a few more Build Week captains. That's why I'm writing this. Orientation for Build Week Captains starts March 7. Can you be there? And don't worry if you can't make an eight-day commitment. Call Deb Cox at 299-1516 and find out more about how you can help out.

Scott Ferrell is a Master Sergeant with the U.S. Air Force at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and is one of HoPP's volunteer Build Captains for Build Week (May 20-May 27.).