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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Caring community : Over 200 volunteers build new playground as one-year tornado anniversary approaches

  • It’s been nearly a year since a May 19, 2013 tornado tore through Bethel Acres, but Mayor Neal Davis said the small, close-knit community has not been forgotten.
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  • It’s been nearly a year since a May 19, 2013 tornado tore through Bethel Acres, but Mayor Neal Davis said the small, close-knit community has not been forgotten.
    “Love has been here from the start,” he said.
    Davis welcomed over 200 local and statewide volunteers to the Bethel Acres Community Center Saturday to aid in the construction of a new playground.
    “Our community, in its current state, is still recovering and rebuilding from the tornado that recently affected our town and surrounding area,” Davis said.
    The community effort to build a playground in Bethel Acres was made possible by Good Neighbor Pharmacy members and AmerisourceBergen associates, who raised money to build the playground.
    KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization, coordinated the project.
    Davis said the new playground will bring more than 1,000 kids in the community one step closer to having the childhood they deserve.
    “This will be a place where a lot of people of all ages can come for a long time,” he said.
    Davis said a Broken Arrow pharmacist recommended Bethel Acres for the location of the project.
    “He said he would really like to do something for the community,” Davis said.
    Todd Pendergraft, owner and pharmacist of Broken Arrow Family Drug, a local Good Neighbor Pharmacy, said he watched the May storms devastate much of Oklahoma.
    “As an independent pharmacy and a small business owner, it’s my job to take care of our community and our patients,” he said. “Giving back is one way that we try to be good neighbors.”
    Good Neighbor Pharmacy Manager of Advertising and Brand Management Missy Ervin, of Philadelphia, agreed with Pendergraft and said at first Bethel Acres wasn’t their first pick for building a new playground but once they visited, they knew it was right.
    “After the tornado they had been pretty devastated,” she said.
    Ervin said she has been helping with the planning process since day one and was glad to see the playground equipment, help with building it and see it finally put up for the kids.
    “The community was so welcoming,” she said. “It really just is amazing to me to see these people come together to do this for this community. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing KaBOOM! does and we’re grateful to be a part of it.”
    KaBOOM! Project Manager Melissa Drouganis, from Washington D.C., said KaBoom! ensures that all kids get the balance of active play they need to thrive. She said working with the other organizations and coming together to do something good for a community helps to do that for kids.
    Page 2 of 2 - “KaBOOM! really believes in working with great partners,” she said.
    Drouganis said she loves seeing people come out just because they want to help but have never built a bench before. She said not only are they helping, but also they’re learning something new.
    “I love seeing communities come together,” she said. “I love seeing families work alongside each other.”
    Chris Brochu, a local Bethel volunteer, said his whole family got involved.
    “It’s good to see the turnout,” he said.
    Brochu said with the way the world is today, it’s good to see there are still good people who want to help.
    “I’m just glad for the kids,” he said. “It’s all about the kids.”
    Bethel Boy Scout Troop 424 Scout Master Shannon Smith said none of his scouts lost homes in the May tornado but the troop helped with relief efforts every chance they got over the past year.
    “I think it’s a good way for the community to see the Boy Scouts work for good,” he said.
    Davis said Troop 424 did a lot in helping organize and recruit volunteers for the playground project.
    “We try to help our community as much as we can,” Smith said. “I’m proud of this for our community.”
    Davis said planning for the new playground has been underway for a few months and kids and parents were highly involved.
    He said kids drew the ‘ideal’ playground and parents aided in planning of types and safety of playground equipment.
    The Bethel Acres location is one of five playgrounds that Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen will build in 2014.
     
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