A community lot in Grove was bustling as hundreds of volunteers came together to build a playground in the span of a day.
More than 240 volunteers were tasked with assembling the playground, which would include swings, slides, monkey bars, picnic tables, benches and covered shelters.
The lot, which is co-owned by Little Zion Baptist Church and Mount Gilead Baptist Church, had been the site of a Grove community playground for almost 60 years, but the equipment had seen better days.
Jeanne Zeidler, president and CEO of the Williamsburg Health Foundation, was aware of the need for a newer, safer place for kids in Grove to play, but it was not until she first heard about KaBOOM! at a Rotary Club meeting the wheels began to turn.
KaBOOM! is a nonprofit that has built or improved more than 16,300 playgrounds since 1996 with the goal of giving all kids “the childhood they deserve filled with balanced and active play, so they can thrive,” the KaBOOM! website says.
“Having a safe place to play keeps kids healthy,” said Zeidler of her desire to bring a new playground to Grove.
Zeidler called on John McGlennon, the James City County Supervisor who represents Grove, to ask whether there might be a suitable space for a KaBOOM! playground in that community.
McGlennon in turn reached out to the two churches who own the lot. Between the churches, the county and the Health Foundation, plans began to take shape for a new community playground.
“We want to bring this playground back to the heart of the Grove community,” McGlennon said. “Now the kids of Grove can feel like they have their own place to play.”
In June, the Williamsburg Health Foundation’s board of trustees awarded KaBOOM! a grant for 90 percent of the cost to built the playground, about $87,000, Zeidler said. The two churches were then tasked with raising the final 10 percent, which is part of the KaBOOM! project model.
“They’ve invested a lot of their time and energy and money,” McGlennon said, noting how the churches organized fundraisers but also how many of the contributions came from the churches themselves.
McGlennon said the churches are hoping to raise more money from the community to further improve the property and eventually build a meeting hall near the playground.
Little Zion, Mount Gilead, the Williamsburg Health Foundation and McGlennon were joined on Saturday by groups of volunteers from numerous nearby churches, students from the College of William & Mary and staff from the three WJCC schools associated with Grove: James River Elementary, Berkeley Middle and Jamestown High.
Aside from a bit of prep work on the lot the two days prior to the build, the entire playground was completed between 8 a.m and 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
“The significance of this day goes beyond what people can immediately see,” said Pastor William Dawson of Mount Gilead Baptist Church, going on to cite Grove’s history of racial segregation and tension. “For this project to bring the community together like this is truly a blessing.”
Reporter Kirsten Petersen contributed to this story.