Braddock Mayor John Fetterman figured it would be a grueling task for a few dozen volunteers to spread 40,000 pounds of rubber mulch across a playground.
He was wrong.
It took 60 volunteers about two hours Friday to distribute the mulch throughout the playground on Braddock Avenue.
“It’s a lot of man hours, but when you have 60 people, you can knock it out,” said Helen Wachter, director of KEYS Service Corps, an AmeriCorps program.
Miles Loewy, volunteer manager for Heritage Community Initiatives, which helped organize the donations and volunteers for the day, said rubber mulch is low-maintenance and never has to be replaced, just raked occasionally to refresh it, which allows Heritage to “use resources for something else.” The mulch alone was a $10,000 in-kind donation, he said. An additional 40,000 pounds will be donated next year for another project in Braddock, he said.
The 60 KEYS volunteers also sealed a wooden deck and steps that lead down to the playground, planted trees, weeded and mowed grass.
Volunteer C.J. Mitchell’s primary task for the morning was “wheelbarrowing” — hauling the mulch to different areas of the playground.
“I’m actually doing something that makes a difference,” said Mr. Mitchell, 23, a KEYS volunteer who has been in Pittsburgh for 2 1/2 weeks.
Ms. Wachter said the volunteers wanted to “do something good” to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
It’s not their first big project in Braddock. In 2006, KEYS volunteers also helped to make the former First Presbyterian Church in the town a usable space for the community. Ms. Wachter said volunteers put in 1,300 hours in one week to create the now fully renovated Nyia Page Community Center.
“That was an “aha moment” for us,” Ms. Wachter said.
She noted that it’s much easier to complete big, overwhelming projects when lots of volunteers are available.
“Large-scale projects like this can really jump-start change in the community,” she said.
As for the mulch, a group of preschool-age children stopped by Friday morning to test out the new playground surface. They walked uneasily across the thick layer of rubber at first, but quickly got used to the softness. And children know quality when they see it: One boy dug up a piece of wooden mulch from beneath the rubber and surveyed the two side by side before declaring the new mulch “safer.”
Mr. Fetterman, his face streaked with black smudges from a day of work, agreed as he walked across the mulch.
“You’d have to try really hard to fall on this and hurt yourself,” he said.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11265/1176502-56-0.stm#ixzz1a27Ic7EH