ST. PETERSBURG — A brightly colored playground can provide more than just recreation. It can help rebuild lives, says Linda Osmundson, executive director of the local nonprofit Community Action Stops Abuse.
This week, dozens of children living at a shelter for battered women will have a new play area, thanks to the sweat of hundreds of volunteers and $75,000, most of which was given by a private corporation. The playground will be a needed upgrade for a 14-unit apartment complex opened by CASA in 1998.
"Domestic violence victims haven't had a happy life," Osmundson said. "One of the things we notice is that kids as young as 6 years old are taking care of their siblings. With this playground, we want to give the opportunity for moms to be moms and kids to be kids."
Jessica Howard, 32, a recently divorced mother of three who lives at the shelter, is thrilled. She and her son Trevor, 12, participated in a committee that helped brainstorm what the playground would look like.
The old playground was a concrete slab with a basketball hoop, a rickety swing set and a picnic table. It wasn't safe for her two young daughters, who are toddlers, so Howard typically drove them to Crescent Lake Park.
Howard said she made sure the new 2,500-foot play area, which will not be open to the public, would have things for toddlers. This will help her juggle the demands of her work as an insurance agent and her children's needs.
"I think my kids will have a blast," Howard said. "CASA has empowered me and made me believe that I can be a strong independent woman."
KaBOOM, a nonprofit organization that builds playgrounds across the country, partnered with the Home Depot Foundation, which is providing a $65,000 grant for the project. The remainder of the money will be raised by CASA.
The foundation is bringing 100 Home Depot employees to help build the park on Thursday. About 75 local volunteers have already signed on, and about 25 more are needed to join teams that will help with food, logistics, registration, safety and construction.
Luis Perez can be reached at (727) 892-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.