Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Playground project still a dream

Organizers seek help, donations

Enquirer Contributor

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — At busy intersections and in suburban neighborhoods, brightly colored posters sound the call for Fort Liberty Playland — “Lend A Helping Hand,” “Help Build A Dream.”

        The posters were designed by about 30 children whose parents are leading the effort to build the football-field-size community playground.

        “The children have done a lot,” said parent Reva Vincent. “They've written thank-you notes, they've gone door-to-door to collect money. They even wrote a letter to (President Clinton), but we never heard from him.”

        About $200,000 is needed to build the playland. It was supposed to be built in May, but construction was postponed so volunteers could raise more money. They're still short of their goal.

        Nonetheless, “we're building it — there's no ifs, ands or buts about it,” said Chris Matacic, president of Friends of Liberty Township Parks and Recreation, the nonprofit group that is leading the project.

        Fort Liberty will be built the week of Sept. 20-26 at The Reserves Park off Van Gorden Road.

        “With less than a week to go, $35,000 is still needed,” Mrs. Matacic said. “We have two anonymous donors who have offered to match dollar for dollar up to $14,500 on any new monies raised. So if we receive donations in that amount, we will be very close to our goal.”

        To help cut costs, some changes have been made in the playland design.

        “We've eliminated fencing in the play area for the older children and we've gotten some hardware donated that we thought we'd have to buy,” Mrs. Matacic said.

        About 2,000 people will be needed to build Fort Liberty Playland. So far, about 1,000 have volunteered.

        Free child care will be provided for volunteers' children ages 3 to 9, and free meals will be provided for volunteers. Children 10 and older can help build.

        Maxine Baird, who has lived in Liberty Township 63 years, said she would love to help build Fort Liberty Play land if she were physically able. Instead, she gave $1,000.

        “If I could donate my services, I would, but I just turned 90 in August,” Mrs. Baird said. She and her late husband, Arthur, have long supported the township parks.

        Robert Leathers of Ithaca, N.Y., came up with the volunteer idea more than 20 years ago for needed playground equipment at his children's elementary school.

        Mr. Leathers and his company, Leathers & Associates Inc., have since helped communities in the United States, Australia, Canada and Israel build more than 1,200 playland structures like Fort Liberty's.


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