Children and families served by the Autauga County Department of Human Resources (ACDHR) now have a safe, fun place to play and spend time together during their visits to the facility. It’s thanks to a partnership between the 2020-2021 class of Leadership Autauga County and the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).
On June 9, the organizations revealed a new playground, along with an overflowing outdoor toy box, at a presentation ceremony at ACDHR. Leadership Autauga County, with help from the Southern Division APSO chapter, Prattville and Montgomery sub-areas, transformed a previously bare patio area and yard at the ACDHR into the playground.
“The support of the Autauga Leadership class and the Alabama Power Service Organization is very important and is very much appreciated as this allows our families to experience a sense of normalcy,” said Onya Johnson, Autauga County DHR director. “Also, their support in renovating the patio area and providing toys for all ages will allow the parents to play outdoors with their children in an area that is safe and has been specifically designed for them.”
Danna Patterson, a member of this year’s Leadership Autauga County class, pitched the playground idea to the group when they were working together to select a community project that would best serve the county.
Leadership Autauga County is designed to develop people who are informed, committed and qualified to serve the community. It works to cultivate and train leaders who are concerned about the future of the county. Each class chooses a service project as the focal point of their efforts to put what they are learning to work in the community.
“What people don’t realize is that families rely on the patio space at the ACDHR when they come for their supervised visits with their children, particularly those who are in foster care,” said Patterson, personnel manager of the Montgomery County DHR. “These families rely on the DHR to help them maintain connectivity with their children. The space was not conducive for family-friendly visits. I’m so grateful to everyone who assisted us with making this project a reality.”
The Leadership Autauga County class began by installing a new fence, which enlarged the area to give children more room to play. Students in Prattville Christian Academy’s art class then decorated the fence with paintings of animals and flowers.
With the help of other volunteers in the community, Leadership Autauga County pressure-washed the patio and sidewalk, added new sod, flowers and shrubs, refurbished the barbecue grill and installed two ceiling fans. They equipped the area with a swing set, seesaw, slide and other playground equipment.
Realizing that other outdoor toys were needed for the playground, Lisa Knight, Alabama Power Montgomery Business Office supervisor and another Leadership Autauga County class member, enlisted help from APSO members.
The Prattville APSO sub-area purchased a 230-gallon plastic deck storage box and filled it with a tricycle and bicycle, miniature tractors, balls and a variety of outside games. The Montgomery sub-area added to the pile of outdoor toys, with cornhole and ring toss games; T-ball, kids bowling and scoop ball sets; a basketball goal; a slide; and a paddle toss game. When APSO members delivered the toys to the ACDHR in April, they filled the back of a pickup truck, Knight said.
“Participating in this project has been a humbling experience for me,” said Knight. “Seeing how all the people in our Leadership Autauga County group came together to use their skills and talents has been touching. It means a lot to know that the kids and their families will be out there enjoying themselves because of our efforts.”
Jesse Beavers was proud to be a part of the project.
“I have never had any experience with the DHR until we got involved with this project,” said Beavers, practice administrator, Prattville Primary Medicine, Baptist Health. “Knowing that we have been able to brighten up that facility and make it more comfortable for the families to meet has truly been inspiring.”
Knight, Patterson, Beavers and Casey Ferrell headed the Leadership Autauga County project. Several Prattville-area companies and individuals contributed to the effort, including Lowe’s, Home 2 Suites, Fuller Landscaping, Durbin Auto Parts and electrician Randy Whitt, who installed the fans.
“It really was a team effort,” said Ferrell, youth minister at Prattville First United Methodist Church. “When I heard there was an opportunity to help impact the lives of students in the school system and perhaps in my youth group through this project at the DHR, I had to jump on it. I know that supervised visits can’t replace life at home, but supervised visits can provide a place where second chances can happen and relationships can be restored. It was a rare opportunity for our leadership class to give back to Prattville and invest in the lives of these families.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)