A new playground in east Raleigh will be a place for some of the city’s most vulnerable children to climb, jump and run.
More than 200 volunteers built the playground in a jam-packed construction session Wednesday, painting colorful signs, steering wheelbarrows of dirt and installing slides and other equipment.
The playground is nestled in the grass between two apartment buildings run by PLM Families Together, a nonprofit that helps homeless families move to stable housing.
Children often arrive at the apartments having had little chance to play as their families cope with stressful or traumatic situations, from living in cars to fleeing domestic violence.
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At the apartments, the children can at last relax, and the playground will give them even more ways to enjoy that freedom, said Beth Bordeaux, executive director of the organization.
“They can let go of that stress and just be kids,” she said. “And that’s what they need more than anything.”
The playground is part of a $4.1 million, three-year partnership between the CarMax Foundation and KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds across the country. The two groups expect to build 30 playgrounds with local partners across the United States.
The children who live in the apartments were part of a design workshop a few weeks ago where they shared their ideas for what would make their playground great.
Side-by-side slides where they could race one another were high on their list and will be a part of the playground. The new space also will have picnic tables and benches where parents can watch their children play.
Last year, Families Together moved 81 families from homelessness to homes of their own, with 78 percent signing a lease within 60 days of entering the program.
The organization helps homeless families in a variety of situations, whether they are without anywhere to stay, are in a shelter or are part of the short-term housing program at the apartments.
The families who live at the apartments tend to be those who aren’t a good match for a shelter, for reasons such as having a child with special needs or a father who can’t be housed in a shelter exclusively for women and children.
Each family receives support such as budgeting lessons, information on their rights and responsibilities as tenants and assistance finding a permanent place to live.
James Barnes, 33, who lived at the apartments with his wife and four daughters for several months a few years ago, volunteered to help build the playground Wednesday.
After Barnes lost his job in 2009 when the company he worked for closed suddenly, he struggled to find work. He and his family were on the brink of homelessness when Families Together stepped in at the end of 2010.
The organization offered a safe place to start over.
“We started working and saving money,” he said. “There was a sense of home and community.”
Barnes eventually started his own lawn maintenance company. He comes to the apartment complex every two weeks to tend to the yard there.
“Because of how great they were to our family, I come back to help any time I can,” he said.