In the past week, a field in front of Fair View United Methodist Church has been transformed into one of the biggest playgrounds in south Iredell County.
The playground, which includes areas for 2- to 5-year- olds and 6- to 12-year-olds, has been assembled with the help of volunteers from the church and the community.
“It's been absolute teamwork, a community outpouring,” said Elaine Willeford, a member of Fair View UMC who has spearheaded the project with David Caldwell. “Every day last week we had more than enough volunteers for the phase of construction that was going on.”
The church's help in installing the equipment has defrayed the cost of the playground. Volunteers have brought their own tools and done everything from digging holes to spreading mulch to bolting countless pieces of equipment together.
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Some church members worked every day, despite the 90-plus degree heat. Friends of church members came, as well as YMCA employees.
“We've even had children out there helping, picking up the packaging the equipment came out of and picking up empty water bottles,” Willeford said.
The playground, which will be named in honor of the late teacher Betty Apgar, was the idea of church member David Caldwell.
“Shortly after Betty died, (the idea) just came to me one morning when I was driving to work,” Caldwell said. “I wanted to do something that would honor her life since she was such a special person and she loved children so much.”
The church was in need of a new playground, and Caldwell set an initial goal of raising $10,000 for a new one. That goal was quickly surpassed, as Caldwell said the response to the idea “was just overwhelming.” The church started to dream bigger, and made plans for a larger – and more costly – playground.
A year later, the church has about $87,000 for the playground. About $35,000 of that came from a Duke Endowment grant that Fair View pastor Patrick Hamrick applied for, and the rest has come from fundraisers and donations.
“It's just been incredible,” said Caldwell, who took several days off work to help with the playground installation.
The playground will be officially called the Betty Apgar Community Playground, but Willeford noted that other families had contributed to the playground in honor of loved ones who had died.
After all the equipment has been installed. The playground will be fenced and landscaped.
Carrigan McCann, Chelsie Hunter and Jennifer Moskel, members of Girl Scout Troop 432, will install park benches and raised flower beds as part of their Girl Scout Gold Award project, the equivalent of the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout award.
“They are helping it be more of a park setting than just a playground,” Willeford said.
The playground will be open to the community.
“We're hoping that it will welcome not only families with young children, but families that want to come to a park setting, hang out or picnic,” Willeford said. “We're doing it as a way to offer fun and fellowship to our community.”
She said onlookers already have stopped by during the playground installation to ask what's going on.
“They were all excited too,” Willeford said.
The playground project also has affected the church, Caldwell said. People have gotten to know each other better through working on it, and seeing a project through to completion in one year has been uplifting.
“It's done wonders for the church congregation,” he said. “It's really pulled the church together. It's been a project that everybody has supported, and everybody has given of themselves in some way, whether it be financially, in prayer support or bringing food and snacks for people working on it.”
Fair View United Methodist will officially dedicate the playground at its homecoming on Sept. 14. For more information about the church, go to www.fairviewumc.org.