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New playground at 7th and South Grand aims to fill need

by Admin in From the Executive Director

A new public playground to be constructed Aug. 25 at South Grand Avenue and Seventh Street will give inner-city families a safe and healthy place to make memories, an organizer of the effort said Wednesday.

“We’re trying to improve the block and reinvest in the community,” said Erin Predmore, executive director of Family Service Center, 730 E. Vine St.

Steel-and-plastic playground sets costing a total of almost $90,000 will be constructed by 200 volunteers on land owned by the center, Predmore said.

The Family Service Center Community Playground, immediately south of the group’s headquarters, between Seventh and Eighth streets, will measure 65-by-40 feet and include climbing walls, slides, monkey bars and swings for children ages 2 through 12.

The base of the playground will consist of 18 inches of wood chips, and it will be fenced and lighted, Predmore said. There won’t be water fountains or rest rooms.
The closest playground is more than a half-mile away, at the Springfield Park District’s Iles Park. The new playground’s site is in a low-income neighborhood, and almost 4,000 children live within a half-mile, Predmore said.

Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe said the playground is “definitely needed. I’m very supportive.”

The project fits well with Family Service Center’s mission, Predmore said. The center’s motto is: “Stronger families. Stronger communities. Stronger tomorrows.”

The not-for-profit center was founded in 1863 and bills itself as the oldest social-service organization in Springfield (www.service2families.com/about).

The playground will provide a bonding opportunity for family members visiting with children currently living in area foster homes and being supervised by Family Service Center staff, Predmore said.

The playground site consists of a grassy area and two vacant buildings.  The center hopes to tear down the buildings soon and eventually construct a community center on the property, Predmore said.

“This is totally within our reach,” she said.

Family Service Center is working with KaBoom!, a not-for-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., on the project. The cost of materials will be covered by a $80,000 donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, and $8,500 from Family Service Center.

KaBoom! and Blue Cross/Blue Shield also were involved in the 2010 construction of playground equipment at Springfield’s Gehrmann Park.

Family Service Center has enough volunteers lined up for the project but is looking for donations and other assistance to provide breakfast to all the volunteers, Predmore said. The center also is trying to raise the remaining $3,000 of its $8,500 share of the cost, she said.


How to help with the Family Service Center Community Playground

* To make a tax-deductible donation or offer other assistance, call Erin Predmore or Brooke Thomas at Family Service Center, 528-8406. Predmore also can be reached at epredmore@service2families.org.

* Contribute through the center’s website: www.service2families.org.

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