KaBOOM! Apartment’s kids get new playground

See a playground being built by a swarm of eager volunteers in the Lents neighborhood. Learn more about the partnership that made it happen …

Volunteers assemble, and get ready to lift into place, a new spiral slide at the Schiller Way Apartment Community in outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Folks in outer East Portland joined forces on August 15 to give area kids a new playground at Schiller Way Apartment Community, owned by the public housing bureau Home Forward, formerly known as the Housing Authority of Portland.

A block north of SE 92nd Avenue – throughout the day – some 200 volunteers dug, pounded, pulled, hauled, mounted, and erected, high-quality playground equipment in the center of the block-long apartment complex.

KaBOOM! Project Manager Katrina Hill looks over the work being done with coordinators John Arnold and Brian Youngs.

“The design is based on children’s drawings created at a special design event in June,” said Katrina Hill of KaBOOM! – a national nonprofit organization dedicated to giving all kids places to have fun and safe active play.

“In addition to the playground, this community is also getting new benches, a new garden, trash containers, and a new beanbag toss,” Hill told East Portland News.

Volunteers Evan Thornton and Noelle Rivers haul soft bark chips into the play area.

The project was built in the same area as the old playground, Hill pointed out. “It was old, broken down, and really sad-looking. And, it was not appropriate to the needs of the kids who live here. The families here have gotten a custom-designed playground that really fits their needs, and which gives their community space a facelift.”

For longer than 15 years, KaBOOM! has been a matching “funding partner” with communities having a need for a new playground or a safe place to play for their kids. “In this case, we found such a partner in this Home Forward community.”

Installing a seat are volunteers Heather Brown and Felix Struys.

Providing both the funding and the elbow grease was Foresters™, an international financial services provider affiliated with a fraternal benefit society – The Independent Order of Foresters.

“Many of our volunteers are Foresters policyholders and investors,” acknowledged Hill. “Residents and a lot of other people are also here, volunteering, today.”

Under the direction of a half-dozen coordinators, the hundreds of volunteers assembled equipment, poured concrete bases, and installed brightly-colored playground equipment. Others pitched in by dragging in 38,880 square feet of safety surfacing material.

Resident Araceli cooks carnitas on the grill for an army of hungry volunteers.

It takes many strong volunteers to lower this springy teeter-totter into place.

As quickly and magically as the organization’s name suggests – “KaBOOM!” – by 3:00 p.m. that same afternoon, the new playground was fully installed at the Schiller Way Apartments, ready for creative and active play.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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