Volunteers built new playground in a day

Published 11:20 am Friday, October 6, 2017

Children who come to the Armory Park starting this Sunday at 1 p.m. will be in for a delightful surprise. That’s when they’ll be presented with a new playground built within six hours on Thursday by adults, many with youngsters of their own.

Franklin Mayor Frank Rabil, City Manager Randy Martin and Jenny Dixon, the communications manager for the Franklin Mill of International Paper will be present to officially open the site. The gap of time since completion is required to allow the concrete to settle and harden.

The project is a vision initially thought up in spring 2016 by a team of people at IP, which wanted to commemorate its five-year anniversary in a meaningful way that says ‘Thank you’ to the surrounding community for supporting the plant since it resumed operations.

After consulting with Dominion Energy, the foundations of both companies each contributed $25,000. Obici HealthCare Foundation also gave an additional $25K, and another $23,500 came from private donations.

The City of Franklin was then asked for ideas, and the park was quickly settled on as an ideal way to express gratitude. The facility has been in need of more than just basic maintenance.

Who better to seek guidance on creating a playground than KaBOOM!, which is a non-profit organization that specializes in creating or improving playgrounds through the country. Back in August,

Rachel Malkusah, senior project manager from Washington, D.C., came to discuss the matter with all involved. They also enlisted the input of children at the Texie Camp Marks Children’s Center. Their creative ideas for what they’d like in a playground became inspiration for what now exists.

“We had an outstanding team of more than 150 volunteers from International Paper, Dominion Energy and the City of Franklin working hard to build a KaBOOM! Playground,” said Dixon on Thursday. “With recent headlines of catastrophic events and natural disasters — this is exactly what we need more of … collaboration, showing kindness and giving back.

“Today is about local government, small businesses, large corporations, private foundations and people — all coming together for the greater good of our community.”

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Dominion’s vice president of customer service Charlene Whitfield said that just projects are what the company likes to do, and she and other volunteers were particularly touched by the children present who came up and thanked them.

“IP is a valued customer of Dominion, but they’re not just customers but also partners,” Whitfield continued. “It’s great work by all.”

Mayor Frank Rabil first thanked the sponsors: International Paper, Dominion, Obici HealthCare Foundation, Franklin-Southampton Charities and the City of Franklin itself.

“It’s wonderful what happens when you volunteer,” he said. “It’s an example of what we call can do together.”

Among the many volunteers was Clay Councill, who is a son of Jim and Bambi Councill in Franklin. Clay and his wife Jennie came from Knoxville, Tennessee, to be a part of this event.

Both are well experienced with KaBOOM! He through corporate community affairs via Home Depot in Atlanta, Georgia; she was with non-profit directly for many years starting in 2001.

Although both have helped build many playgrounds along the East Coast, seeing one in his hometown is special.

“It’s magical,” said Clay.