Volunteers Help Build Natural Playground in Northwest Cedar Rapids
By Cindy Hadish, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Many hands are working together so children will have another place to play in a flood-damaged neighborhood.
Nearly 40 volunteers from Transamerica’s leadership program helped construct portions of a natural playground Thursday at Matthew 25’s Urban Farm in the 400 block of G Avenue NW.
“This will slowly take shape,” Matthew 25 co-director Clint Twedt-Ball said of the playground, being built on the non-profit’s two acres of ground farmed in the Time Check neighborhood.
Volunteers dug a sand pit and laid the groundwork for a berry patch amidst still-thriving Swiss chard and other vegetables growing where houses once stood before the Floods of 2008.
Large rocks for children to climb will surround the sand, under a vine-covered pergola that will provide shade.
Twedt-Ball said portions of the playground could be finished as soon as this weekend, while other additions, such as a trail, will be installed before next fall.
One of the goals is to “get kids excited about food,” he said. For example, children will be able to pick strawberries from the berry patch or sample tomatoes, lettuce and other food grown on the urban farm.
Lon Olejniczak, senior vice president of Transamerica in Cedar Rapids, said the volunteer day fits the insurance company’s goals of sustainability and health, education and welfare.
“In there implicitly, is kids,” he said. “It’s our job to help make communities a better place.”
The company also has committed to bringing employees next spring and fall to complete the playground.
Volunteers contributed more than 6,000 hours to the farm this growing season. Other employers, including GE Capital and Intermec, also have supported the urban farm.
Michael Santistevan, 35, a Transamerica product manager, traveled from Los Angeles to help with the project, which the company is also helping to fund.
Santistevan said the day, part of a weeklong leadership academy, is a team-building exercise.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said, “especially helping out a community that needs a lift.”
What's On KCRG