Story by Kristina Hoti
Nearly three years ago, an idea took seed in the mind of Hannelore Chambers, who would become the president of Warwick Playground Dreams (WPD), a grass-roots non-profit organization, which would bring an entire community together to rebuild the aging playground at Stanley-Deming Park, making it inclusive to children of all abilities.
This week, years of planning and fund-raising came to fruition as hundreds of community volunteers loaned their tools, time, and energy to create a magnificent new playground for the children of Warwick.
The construction began on Mon., Apr 22 and continued through to Sun., Apr 28. Each 12 ½ hour work day consisted of three shifts, with lunch and dinner being served onsite. Local restaurants and organizations donated meals; local civic and religious groups and businesses sent teams of people to work on the build.
The playground will have a distinctly Warwick touch, including murals by local artists, and a scavenger hunt of animals native to the Warwick area, for children to find throughout the playground. The animals were all painted by Warwick Valley High School art students, under the direction of art teacher Kristen Spano, who sponsored the scavenger hunt. Apples affixed throughout the Apple Tree House and Apple Orchard Rock Climbing Wall were painted by local elementary school children.
On Sat., Apr. 27 Troy Ramsland, of Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower, ate lunch with work crew team leaders George Foster, and his seven-year-old daughter Adira. Troy said to Adira, “Are you my boss?…I don’t have any kids, so I’m building this for you.”
Moments like this are what defined Build Week. Strangers working side by side, slowly turning into friends, friends laughing together to lighten a heavy work load, and memories being created to last a lifetime.
Sharon and David Halper, both in their 70s, came to the build site throughout the week to contribute.
“It was my first time using a power tool, and I’m hooked!” said Sharon. Her oldest grandson is 22, but she and her husband came, “because…you feel good when you are surrounded by good people. And maybe to prove that old people still got it!”
Work crew team leader Patti Petreshock, an engineer with a degree in architecture who has been a stay-at-home-mom for many years, enjoyed the opportunity to use her skills and work with other engineers.
“I wanted to give back to the community,” Patti said.
Patti engineered the gigantic apple, with guidance from Play By Design architects, and taught volunteers how to construct it using exact measurements, constituting a very tedious process.
Warwick resident Loretta Breedveld was at the site every day. She said, “You know, when people need help, you show up. I thought about it…I’ve got a lot to do at home, but that can wait…this couldn’t wait. And it’s just the community here in Warwick. It’s awesome.”
While installing balusters at the very end of the build, WPD committee member Erika Grizzanti said, “These are the lessons I try to teach my kids; give back to the community, be kind to others… This is why we do this.”