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Coalition Creates Joyful Smiles in Chicora-Cherokee Neighborhood
11/27/2013 2:40:56 PM


By Bob Small

There is an oasis blooming in the Chicora-Cherokee community. Last Friday more than 75 volunteers came together to distribute 45,000 pounds of mulch and put up recreational structures to create a safe playground.

All in one day.

Volunteers and supporters from Select Health, Metanoia, Charleston Promise Neighborhood, Healthy Connections and the city of North Charleston came together to transform a 23,000 square foot vacant lot into a playground oasis complete with sliding boards, monkey bars, a climbing wall and see saws, a toy tractor, airplane and motorcycle.

Volunteers from Select health of South Carolina, and community organizations arrived at the lot at North Carolina and Spruill Avenues between Calvert and Orvid Streets at 8:30 and began the transformation. By 4 pm when the official cutting was scheduled, the playground was complete.

As more than 100 people mulled around the area admiring the playground and community garden before the start of the program. A group of children sat in front of the playground colored blue, at their request , many of the youth could not help but glance back at the playground from time to time.

In addition to the playground two benches were dedicated in honor of Sister Kathleen Long and Sister Renee Yann, both members of the Sister of Mercy of the Americas.

At the ribbon cutting, Select Health Executive Director Cindy Helling said, “This playground became a reality thanks to the support of strong partners and a welcoming community that told us how we could best meet the needs of the families who live here.”

To commemorate the occasion symbolic ceremonial shovels were given to the principals of the project. They are Sherrie Snipes Williams, CEO of Charleston Promise Neighborhood; North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, the Rev. Bill Stanfield, CEO of Metanoia; Cindy Helling executive Director of Select Health of South Carolina.

The program was financed by the Amerihealth Caritas Partnership, which works to address health disparities through various community initiatives that promote wellness and quality of life.ACP works with AmeriHealth Caritas health plans to build playgrounds where a high percentage of the residents live below the poverty level.

It took only one day to build the playground but the community groups have been meeting for some time, according the Rev. Bill Stanfield, CEO of Metanoia a community based organization serving the Chicora-Cherokee community since 2003.

Nationally the group has built 11 playgrounds. Two have been built in South Carolina. The other South Carolina playground is in Columbia.

Several Select Health volunteers talked about the experience of helping in the neighborhood project. Julia Powell, who doubled as the Hospitality Captain, said being there was important. “We want to let the community know we are here to help. We also want to promote fighting obesity and provide a safe environment for the children to play in,” she said.

From what was a lot with broken down mobile trailers a few years ago has now been turned into a flourishing community garden, a safe playground, a community garden with various types of greens and some tomatoes could be spotted.

Designed primarily for ages 5 to 12, the playground also includes slides, monkey bars and a climbing wall. In addition to a four-person seesaw, neighborhood children picked out spring toys in the shapes of a tractor, airplane and motorcycle, and selected blue as the playground’s main color. The handicapped-accessible playground has the approval of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society of Testing Materials. Volunteers spread 57.5 tons of mulch at the base to help prevent injuries.

The City of North Charleston is providing the land, fencing, parking and ongoing maintenance of the grounds and equipment. The city also provided the land for the Chicora Place Community Garden, which was launched in 2011. “I see tremendous things happening here with the playground and the garden side by side,” said Recreation Director Ed Barfield. “This is a fantastic rallying point for our community.”

The land for the projects was donated by the city of North Charleston and the playground will be maintained by the city of North Charleston.

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