The Valley Partnership Annual Community Project restored the old Phoenix Day playground.
The old playground at Phoenix Day was an assortment of aging equipment — it met state standards for safety but wasn’t quite what educators at the inner-city child enrichment center wanted: a fun, vibrant outdoor learning environment for children who usually don’t have access to great amenities.
All that changed last November when more than 100 volunteers from Valley Partnership descended on the Phoenix campus for the annual Community Service Project. Their goal was to transform the sandy, walled-in courtyard into an outdoor haven for young learners.
By the time volunteers finished, Phoenix Day’s new playground boasted bright, engaging equipment; grassy, green play areas; a sand pit in which to dig and build; a meandering tricycle path; a garden; a brightly painted infant courtyard; and plenty of new plants and trees.
“Valley Partnership helped us realize the dream of a quality outdoor environment,” says Phoenix Day Executive Director Karyn Parker, who is serving her second term overseeing the center. “We wanted an outdoor environment that was a learning environment as well, and now we have one.”
Phoenix Day was a good fit for Valley Partnership’s annual project, which draws volunteers and in-kind donations from the organization’s diverse partners throughout the commercial real estate industry.
“We try to find projects that are the right size for us,” says Ben Shunk, current chairman of the Community Project Committee and a senior project manager at Adolfson & Peterson Construction. “We want to make sure the project’s not too big for us to make an impact.”
The impact on Phoenix Day has been a powerful one, Parker says, and is both immediate and long-term.
The immediate impact of the Valley Partnership project includes:
- Play equipment that now includes pieces especially designed for toddlers.
- An infant area that is brightly painted and visually stimulating.
- A long-dreamed-of tricycle path that allows children to traverse the grounds, all the while riding on different textured surfaces.
- Synthetic grass with a resilient surface and cushioned padding.
- A sandpit area with play backhoes.
- New plants and trees, as well as a brand new sprinkler system.
- Fresh paint on cement walls.
The long-term benefits are an environment that allows Phoenix Day instructors to teach outdoors, particularly in the garden, where children can learn about sustaining plant life. The center also plans to add features such as a rabbit hutch and a butterfly garden, complete with worms and caterpillars.
“This will allow for seasonal learning,” Parker says, adding that an “indoor-outdoor connection” is an important part of a child’s development.
Almost 80 percent of Phoenix Day’s children come from homes in which the average income is between $14,000 and $18,000 for a family of four, she says. Parents often don’t have the money or the means of transportation to take their children out and about in the community. Now, they have a great spot right in their own neighborhood.
The annual service project is an important component of Valley Partnership’s mission, which also includes networking, education and advocacy.
“Everyone feels great being a part of it,” says this year’s board chair Mindy Korth, an executive vice president at CB Richard Ellis. “At Valley Partnership, we believe even an organization should tithe back to the community.”
While the actual group project takes one day, Shunk says planning for the event starts months before. Committee members typically choose an organization and then spend months preparing, which culminates in a well-coordinated, well-timed workday.
For November’s workday, volunteers from Trudell Design Studios and Wildwood Design surveyed the property and prepared an overall plan.
Then, Valley Partnership volunteers prepared paperwork regulating state requirements for child-care facilities, created a needs list and distributed it to Valley Partnership members.
Partners then stepped up to prep the site, performing such tasks as removing old cement and grading. So on Nov. 8, Shunk says every volunteer knew what to do to finish the work.
Not only is it well coordinated; it’s a lot of fun.
“It’s a great group of people. Everyone is smiling and working hard,” he says. “Everyone checks their egos at the door and realizes what the end result is.”