Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

TOP STORY >> Playground area given new look

BY SARA GREENE
LEADER STAFF WRITER

This summer, volunteers from Little Rock Air Force Base, led by MSgt. John Simonof of the 314th Maintenance Squadron, refurbished two Tolleson Elementary playground areas and made them into one playground. About 80 percent of the students at the Jacksonville school are children of military parents.
“It’s just a goodwill community project,” Simonof said.

He approached school officials in June to see if they needed any help.
Simonof participated in a larger playground project in Fairfield, Calif., near Travis Air Force Base several years ago.

Several of the teachers at Tolleson Elementary suggested consolidating the two play areas at the school. Moving the play area closest to the parking lot not only freed up parking spaces for teachers, but keeps children from playing close to traffic in the school’s parking lot.

Volunteers from Simonof’s workplace the 314 th’s Precision Measurement Equipment Labora-tory, worked weekends and after work to complete the project before school starts.
The group moved 17 pieces of playground equipment, repainted the equipment and fenced it in. Volunteers also plowed and leveled the kickball field.

“They’ve been out here every weekend working,” said Karen Carney, a bookkeeper at Tolleson Elementary.
“The teachers are all thrilled when they see it. It looks like all new equipment,” she said.
Simonof said the most difficult part of the project was asking for donations for materials such as paint and rental machinery for the task of moving the playground equipment.

“Everything worked out in the time we needed,” said Simonof.
Other projects at Tolleson that could use volunteer help include landscaping and painting.
Principal Diane Ashenberger said she’d like Simonof’s group to become Partners in Education with the school.
Partners in Education are involved with students on a more personal level such as physical education volunteers and reading to students. “I couldn’t be more pleased,” Ashenberger said.

“Some of these volunteers don’t even have children enrolled at our school. We’re pleased and proud.”