COLLEGE PLACE - An excess in giving to a fundraiser to build a playground in a Jamaican orphanage has allowed a local church to share its abundance with a school in its own backyard.
"I was definitely surprised at how much money came in," said Cara Grimm, a pastor with Life Church, 116 S. Third Ave., Walla Walla.
But Grimm noted it wasn't a complete surprise when church members raised $11,000 more than the $16,000 needed to build the playground in Jamaica.
"I know our church. And so I had a feeling. They are just very generous people and I knew," she said.
So with an extra $11,000, the call went out for suggestions. "Someone just came and said, ‘What about Meadow Brook?'"
Grimm explained how that younger person had attended Meadow Brook years before and had experienced the lack of playground equipment there.
Until recently the playground equipment at Meadow Brook consisted of a number of basketball hoops spread across the blacktop, along with other pole-type equipment, like tetherball. There were also two hanging play structures. But what wasn't there were climbers, swings and other structures that seem to be the standard in Walla Walla elementary schools.
"The kids really have made do because our kids play soccer and we have the volleyball net," Principal Bill Varady said.
Grimm noted that Meadow Brook lacked the support it needed to purchase new equipment.
"I am aware of the struggle that College Place has had to pass their (school) bonds and levies, and our heart is really to bless our community and the kids ... They don't have much there so we decided like it sounded as good a plan as any," she said.
Grim noted the church has a number of children who attend Meadow Brook, and she worked there as a counselor in the past and now volunteers for the school.
"It was something that was on more than one person's heart," she said.
So on March 20, about 20 volunteers from the church, school and local businesses installed $11,000 in donated playground equipment. They put in a Graviton, a combination of monkey bars and merry-go-round; an Atom, which is a climber that looks like the model of an atom; and a Play Motion Skate Rider, which is a wobbly board about two feet off the ground.
"It was great. We were excited, and we are going to try to build on it. Next year hopefully we will get some swings," Varady said.
Unfortunately, the equipment was off limits to the children last week because it needed to pass inspection. But Varady said he expects it to pass this week, and to be open when the kids come back from spring break.