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Volunteers build dream playground

Fri., April 1, 2005

It was every tool guy, handyman and overachiever’s dream task:

Team up with other good-natured do-gooders and build a playground in one day.

The Home Depot footed the bill (another dream of fix-it people). KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization, provided the guidance.

Now, the young clients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center have their own dream playground on the corner of Sherman Street and Eighth Avenue in Spokane’s lower-income southeast neighborhood.

“Look at this stuff,” said Keith Goehri, store manager of The Home Depot in the Spokane Valley and one of the project leaders. “I eat this stuff up. I grew up in Spokane … and to be in a position to do something like this, 25 years ago, I would have never dreamt it.”

With music to hammer by, and March weather cooperating, work began at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

More than 100 Home Depot volunteers – dressed in the company’s signature orange – gathered on the 40-by-60-foot front lawn of the Outreach Center that was cleared for the project.

The crew teamed with the center’s workers and a handful of KaBOOM! contractors.

By day’s end, $40,000 worth of playground equipment, from a spiral slide to a rock wall fit for future Sir Edmund Hillarys, was assembled, mounted and ready for children to explore.

Spokane Mayor Jim West led a ribbon-cutting ceremony, or in the case of keeping with The Home Depot home-improvement theme, a board-cutting ceremony.

“This is fun,” said Amber Kennedy, a cashier at the Coeur d’Alene store who gave up her day off to volunteer. “And it’s for a good cause.”

KaBOOM!, founded in 1995 and based in Washington, D.C., has facilitated the construction of nearly 700 playgrounds and skateparks and renovated 1,300 playgrounds and two athletic fields. The playground was the 252nd built by The Home Depot and the first in Spokane.

“Our philosophy is, we give back to the community,” said Lee Stocker, The Home Depot district manager in the Inland Northwest.

Added Goehri, a longtime employee of the company: “There are so many groups who need assistance that we have to pick the ones that are most far-reaching. When Lee (Stocker) came to me about this I said, ‘We’ve got to do this,’ and we jumped on it.”

The Home Depot started making plans with the Outreach Center about four months ago, said Austin DePaolo, the center’s executive director. A “design day” event, where Outreach Center youths drew pictures of their ideal playground, was organized in February. The closest playground is at Grant Park about eight blocks away.

“They saw a need for a playground at the center,” said DePaolo.

The 35-year-old center, formerly the Southeast Youth Center, serves more than 1,200 children and adults who are considered at-risk.

The old playground, set up on the side of the building, was 15 years old and made of metal. The new, colorful equipment is made of plastics and other durable materials.

DePaolo said aside from the clients, the playground also will be open to other kids.


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