Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 5:26 PM on Wednesday, May 9, 2012

There's a job for everyone during park's 'Build Week'



By CHRISTY NEWELL

When we first moved to Homer last summer, finding a playground was at the top of my kids' to-do list. Not only are playgrounds a good place to run off the extra energy that kids seem to continuously exude, they are also important for meeting new friends and developing social skills.

The closest playground to our house is at Karen Hornaday Park, less than a mile away and a nice walking distance. We made only one trip to that playground last summer, because once was enough to see that it just wasn't a fun place for small kids to play.

Many structures were missing pieces or just not built for little legs to climb (heck, I even had a hard time climbing up some of the ladders). It also was very dirty, even by Alaska standards, with the base set in gravel and sand.

But the location is amazing — views of the bay and mountains, and right next to the hospital so kids can watch the helicopter come and go. After emptying the gravel out of their shoes, my kids begged to go back to "the big Groton playground" that we used to frequent near our previous home in Connecticut. Um, that's 5,000 miles away. Sorry, kids. Instead, we made do with the tiny Bayview Park because, although it was really meant for toddlers, it is the only park in town that feels safe and clean.

We went to the Homer Street Faire later in the summer and were so excited when we discovered a fabulous group of community members there who were trying to raise funds for a new playground. They sucked us in with tables full of bubbles and play dough and then told me all about their vision while the kids were occupied. What a wonderful idea, especially for a town like Homer that has such a sense of community and is brimming with creativity.

The Homer Playground Project (HOPP for short) raised funds all fall and winter, and on the last day of April they topped the $250,000 mark. What a huge accomplishment for a town of this size, in this economy. Thanks to the organization and guidance from Deb Cox and Miranda Weiss, donations of time and money from all corners of Homer, and beyond, started as a trickle and have now become something akin to a spring- breakup-fueled river.

I must admit, my real involvement in HoPP, aside from ordering a picket for the park fence engraved with my kids' names, didn't really begin until the past month. A core group of nearly frazzled people has been tirelessly organizing and fundraising behind the scenes, and I finally managed to make it to one of their now-weekly meetings to see what I could do to help.

Build Week — May 20-27 — is just a couple of weeks away. That's right, a completely volunteer workforce, made up of Homer residents just like you, is building the entire playground in one week. Thanks to the playground firm Play By Design, HOPP has Build Week down to a science, from knowing how many hammers are needed to arranging volunteers for childcare (who will even be background-checked for safety) to securing food donations for the volunteers.

Now is the time that they need the rest of us to step in and do our part. Do you have a few minutes to gather friends or co-workers to commit to working a building or childcare shift? How about a couple of hours to bake up some snacks for the workers? Do you own a Homer-area business that can donate a meal during a build shift?

There are three build shifts per day, with 100 volunteers needed per shift. If you're into math, that comes out to 2,400 openings to fill for builders alone. Anyone over the age of 14 can take part in the building, and the jobs range from carrying wood and hammering nails to more skilled tasks involving power tools, all under the guidance of Build Captains. Each shift will receive a meal and snacks, as well as the satisfaction of being able to say, "Hey, I helped make this happen!"

When the project is complete, a visit to Karen Hornaday Park will be more than just an hour at the playground. It will be the chance to show your kids and grandkids what Homer can accomplish when we work together to better our town. What better way to teach our younger generations the importance of investing in their community than by doing the same ourselves?

For more information on Build Week and to sign up for building, childcare, or food donations, visit www.homerplaygroundproject.org. You may also call Deb Cox at 299-1516.

Christy Newell is a full-time mom with two kids, ages 4 and 6, and a part-time seamstress and writer. She writes that she counts her family as very fortunate to have lived in Homer since last June thanks to the Coast Guard.

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