Playground project draws community support

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Kerry Crawford figured she and the neighborhood kids would sell a few baked goods, hold a few car washes and make cosmetic upgrades to the playground across from the Grand Avenue Apartments.

But she didn’t count on so many people caring.

Now, what started with a phone call to a police officer has turned into the flagship project for the United Way of Eastern New Mexico’s Day of Caring.

The charitable organization is seeking donations and volunteers for a project to build a new playground Aug. 18 on 1,088 square feet of space adjacent to the apartment complex. Work begins at 8 a.m.

About four months ago, Crawford, who is now a server at a local restaurant, said she was unemployed and doing community service to offset rent at her apartment. And, that’s when she looked outside to discover a small community in need.

“I was watching kids play on equipment dated back in the 60s,” said Crawford, who has five children. “The swings were broken, the kids were tying them together to fix them.”

Also, Crawford said, the park and the apartment complex are separated by a busy road, and she’s seen a lot of dangerous crossings take place.

She talked to people in charge of her community service. She was told she could improve the playground as her work. She called an officer she knew at the Clovis Police Department, who got her in touch with Christina Martinez at United Way.

The project would end up being the third installment in the organization’s participation in Day of Caring.

“It’s a (national) community volunteer day,” said Erinn Burch, executive director of UWENM. “Here in eastern New Mexico, we mainly approach it in finding big projects and putting our volunteer efforts towards it.”

Martinez, who chairs the Day of Caring committee, said previous projects have included city park improvements.

“We find a need in the community, which is the children in this area,” Martinez said. “They’re younger kids and it’s very difficult for them to cross the street to the big park. We just want to build a playground there where the kids can expand their minds and learn to play.”

A few phone calls have netted a $3,000 federal Housing and Urban Development grant and various donations from local organizations — including $1,000 from the El Desayuno Kiwanis club and $1,200 in supplies and materials from Lowe’s.

Combine that with smaller fund-raisers, Crawford said, and, “We still have $3,500 (to raise), but pretty much we’ve done it.”

Martinez said volunteers should bring their own tools, and the organization is seeking help from artists.

Other avenues of help sought, Martinez said, are moving pea gravel and acquiring picnic tables for the area.

Any donations would be appreciated, Martinez said, even something as small as water for volunteers.

To donate, contact the United Way of Eastern New Mexico at 769-2103.