While scores of volunteers worked to clean up old toy closets, sorting stacks of books and laying soft foam mats on hard concrete, the handful of preschoolers at Northeast Youth Center in Hillyard were upstairs, learning how to color between the lines.
Xayvion Valenzuela, who was applying a dark hue of green to a drawing of cheese, blurted out: “I’m going to be a shark for Halloween.”
Another child shot back that he will dress up as a clown, apparently unfazed by the recent creepy clown sightings.
On Monday, the 28 enrolled preschoolers – including the would-be shark and clown – and about 110 kids in before-and-after-school day care will get to enjoy the volunteers’ efforts: a shiny new playground in the backyard.
“You should have seen them the other day,” said Kate Green, the center’s director. “They are so excited, and we can’t wait to use it.”
About 60 volunteers from 19 local credit unions filled the halls of the preschool and day care Thursday morning, cleaning the center’s kitchen, labeling and organizing files, washing the walls and even cleaning the refrigerators.
Meanwhile, a group of employees spent several hours in the rain, putting the finishing touches on the playground. In total, it is estimated to cost just under $20,000. All of the materials and labor were donated; the foundation was completed by Central Pre-Mix Concrete and Flatworks LLC.
“Before, this was just a dirt mess out there,” Green said. “This looks so much better.”
Since 1948, the third Thursday in October has belonged to International Credit Union Day – a day dedicated to community service. In the Inland Northwest, members of the Northwest Credit Union Association chose to celebrate at the Northeast Youth Center, because they knew the center could “desperately use” a playground.
“We knew that they had a playground that is basically asphalt, and had no type of jungle gym for the kids to play,” said Traci McGlathery, a spokeswoman for STCU.
Employees far and wide joined in to help. Troy Stang, the president and CEO of Northwest Credit Union Association, flew in from Seattle the previous night and was found upstairs washing dishes in the kitchen. Lynn Mount, an employee of Cheney Federal Credit Union of 25 years, was sorting files with longtime co-worker Sandy Mangis.
Wendie Ellis, the president of the Spokane chapter of the NWCUA and an employee of Numerica Credit Union for 16 years, helped put up a new basketball hoop with two others. They were having trouble with the instructions, but no matter, the kids were going to love it.
“They’ve been thrilled already,” she said. “They’re going to be even more excited.”
At around 11:30 a.m., the preschoolers were led downstairs for a surprise. Waiting for them was a pile of new balls to play with – footballs, basketballs, kickballs, you name it. In unison, the children sprinted to the pile, before using the next few minutes to throw and bounce the balls every which way.
The playground won’t be ready until Monday morning.
Until then, 4-year-old Valenzuela will have to wait.
“It’s going to be big,” he said.
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