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Wagarville Church revives community playgroundcomment (0)

September 18, 2008

By Megan Norris Jones

The community of Wagarville sits at the junction of state Highway 56 and U.S. 43, and for years, anyone driving past could judge it by the run-down playground outside its shutdown elementary school.

“This is just a rural community, and most everybody grew up playing on that playground,” said Goldie Bailey, clerk at Wagarville Baptist Church, which is located next to the playground.

When the school board closed the school and sent the children to a new one, it leased the property to the Fraternal Order of Police, which used the building to house an ambulance service.

The playground, however, began to deteriorate. It also suffered damage when Hurricane Katrina blew through.

Then, in January 2008, a group at the Washington Baptist Association church decided it was time to do something about the playground like turn it into a park complete with picnic areas.

“The playground was a symbol of the community’s decline,” said Lynn Pace, a member of Wagarville Baptist and leader of the park renovation committee.

The church members decided to invest in their community and turn that symbol into a rallying point for rejuvenating community involvement and showing Christ’s love through the actions of His church.

“Our first objective was to get the community involved in it to give the community a sense of pride,” Pace said.

He is always careful to emphasize that this project doesn’t just belong to Wagarville Baptist — rather it’s a way for the church to engage with the rest of the community.

“Everyone in the community would like to see our park back like it was several years ago when ballgames and children playing in the park were the norm not the unusual. There has been much enthusiasm about this project,” said Peggy Lankford, who serves as treasurer for both Wagarville Baptist and the renovation committee.

Since January, the committee has raised more than $11,000 from grants, contributions from local businesses and individuals and proceeds from a special softball tournament.

That money has been used to restore existing playground equipment that is salvageable and purchase new picnic tables, benches, grills, seesaws and a caterpillar crawl space for children.

Since receiving the updates, the park has hosted birthday parties, softball tournaments and a community Easter egg hunt.

In November, it will host a fall festival that will serve as a fund-raiser for even more renovations.

In time, the committee hopes to raise $25,000, an amount that would allow it to fulfill more long-term goals of building a larger pavilion, updating the softball field and installing more playground equipment.

Now when people drive through Wagarville, they see a place for the community to come together.

“They can tell the difference and see we’re taking more pride in our community,” Bailey said.

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