Eight-year-old Jason Noyes eagerly raked mulch around a half-built playground structure at Knightdale United Methodist Church off Forestville Road. He and Benjamin Palotte, 6, had joined their fathers, Shawn Noyes and Sean Palotte in the 40-degree weather to raise a playground in a single day.
They were part of Cub Scout Pack 365, which meets at the church, and had come to help with the one-day playground build for the church-sponsored preschool on Saturday.
“I never would want to be a farmer,” Jason said to his father as he brushed mulch on top of the dirt. But later he said he was excited to come, even on his birthday.
“I just wanted to (be here),” he said. “I like hard work.”
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The two boys were among dozens of families – including church members, preschool parents and preschool staff – that had come to spend their Saturday constructing, sawing wood and mulching.
In July, 2014 the half-day preschool received a $15,000 Let’s Play Community Construction Grant in order to give their current playground a facelift with a sandbox and a chalk station. Let’s Play, sponsored by Dr. Pepper Snapple, started in 2011 to assist communities in providing play areas and has funded more than 2,000 playgrounds around the nation, will provide play areas for more than 1 million children between 2014 and 2016.
The church and preschool spent the rest of 2014 raising money to match the grant, said preschool board member Lindsay Batchelor. Even still, they need finances for a fence.
With a nod to the old-fashioned barn-raising, the preschool called on volunteers to assemble the playground, which will be open to the public, just in time for warm spring weather.
“There’s stuff going on here every night of the week,” Batchelor said.
The Beaver Dam housing development surrounding the church only popped up within the last couple of years, providing more families in the neighborhood. At the preschool, the 40 children used a small fenced area outfitted with plastic outdoor toys, which the preschool will now use for toddlers.
Bryan Siefert, the church’s pastor, said pursuing the grant emerged from a conversation with the neighbors, who were crossing busy roads to access play areas.
Knightdale UMC also aids their community through supporting organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, a Hispanic ministry and a community garden.
Preschool director Heather Leser has said previously that she applied for the grant so that the church could focus its resources on the food pantry or other ministries instead of the playground.
With the new playground, she said, they’ll be able to offer their second summer camp this year.
Tricia Wheatley said her two-year-old son, who attends the preschool, was “super excited” for the new jungle gym.
“He’s all about the big slides,” she said. “That’s his jam.”