Chicago youth have a new place to play
Students from St. Elizabeth Elementary School enjoy their new playground. Bottom: Freddye Smith (middle left), president of the Rotary Club of Chicago-Near South, and Principal Danielle Harris unveil a plaque during a dedication ceremony 3 June. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
After decades without a playground, St. Elizabeth Elementary School in Chicago was recently outfitted with swings, slides, tunnels, and other modern play equipment.
The Rotary Club of Chicago-Near South organized the transfer and installation of surplus equipment donated by a park district in nearby Naperville. The club, which meets near the school, raised $15,000 to fund the restoration and preparation of the site, as well as the installation of the playground.
"Because of Rotary's generosity, our students have the opportunity to play and enjoy themselves on a playground they can call their own," says Danielle Harris, St. Elizabeth's principal. "I cannot begin to express our appreciation."
On 3 June, almost a year after the project began, Rotarians, students, teachers, and parishioners gathered to dedicate the new playground. Afterwards, students climbed up the ladders, glided down the slides, and swung on the monkey bars.
Rotarians and family members from 12 clubs in District 6450 gathered at the school for 10 Saturdays over the course of the year to clean the site, rebuild and paint the fence, and install and paint the playground equipment.
"This is a project that is really a labor of love," says David Baker, the project leader and a member of the Chicago-Near South club. "It's our first physical project where Rotarians actually came out and worked with people from the school to build this playground."
Founded in the late 1800s, the school is located in a poor neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Baker says the new playground, which replaces an expanse of asphalt and rusty swings, is a symbol of the neighborhood's resurgence.
"Chicago-area Rotary clubs continue to play a part in helping poor urban areas move toward progress," he says.