Giving kids a head start

There was a time when Jackson County Head Start kids couldn’t access all areas of the playground after it rained.

A large area would be left a soggy, muddy mess.

But after some people in the community came together and gathered $3,000 in donations, that area now contains a concrete track, gravel and a couple of new trees.

Now after it rains, the kids

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can go outside and have fun on the playground.

Justin Amos was co-chairman for Jackson County United Way’s annual Day of Caring in the spring when he learned about Head Start needing work on its playground. Day of Caring, however, is a one-day event, and he knew the project couldn’t be done in that time frame.

Later, Amos contacted Doug Gregory, who works for Seymour Department

of Public Works. Amos

found a local company, Lees Ready Mix, to supply cement, and he and Gregory got a group of guys together and completed the project in two days.

They cut the sod and

set the forms for the

circular pathway one day and then poured the cement another day.

While volunteering their time gave them satisfaction, the best moment came recently when they had the chance to see the kids use the playground following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“The gratification is better than any paycheck I’ve ever had,” said Amos, who works for the city’s water pollution control facility and owns a construction business.

“Volunteering is infectious. It’s addictive,” he said. “That’s why I got involved with the United Way Day of Caring because the reward you get, just like going outside and seeing the kids happy, that’s something you can’t get with a paycheck. Many times, you are giving somebody something that they may never have had the opportunity to have.”

Earlier in the year, Gloria Quicksell, enrollment/family engagement specialist with Head Start, contacted Gregory about a potential playground project at the facility in Freeman Field Industrial Park. Head Start serves 70 children ages 3 through 5.

“I came in one day to look at her project when the kids were here, and I saw that, and it just sort of melted your heart,” Gregory said. “We were going to make it happen one way or another.”

Quicksell called one company about cement, and it was way out of the budget. She then got a more reasonable quote, so she sent letters to area businesses and asked for donations.

Soon, money started rolling in, and the project became a reality.

“I had no idea we could get $3,000,” Quicksell said. “I was debating and debating and thinking I was going to put in $500 if I had to.”

But she didn’t have to do that. Small and large businesses became involved and made it happen.

“I was tickled,” she said. “We sent thank-yous and pictures to show (the playground) before and after.”

Once Quicksell obtained the funds, she drew up how she wanted the playground to look and gave it to Gregory. It included a 25-foot concrete circle with a 16-foot gravel circle inside.

Gregory then realized they would have some extra concrete, so they used that for a sidewalk to run from the back of the building to a shed near the circle.

That ended up making the area handicap accessible, which makes student Keira McClain happy since she is in a wheelchair.

“Keira loves it when I go out there and we race around (the circle) three or four times,” Quicksell said. “I can go out there now on that sidewalk, and I can go up to that shed and go right onto the cement track.”

Along with two trees, some leftover money was used to purchase an indoor play mat for one of the classrooms.

Quicksell also plans to purchase a tricycle for younger kids to use on the new outdoor track. Head Start already has some tricycles, but they are for the older kids.

Austin Dunlap said riding a tricycle is his favorite thing to do on the track, while Haelow Robbins likes drawing with chalk there, and Adison Root likes playing in the gravel

with buckets.

Quicksell also has brooms for the kids to sweep the loose rocks back in the gravel area to keep it neat and safe.

Gregory said he is glad to see the playground being used in a variety of ways.

“Whether I’m at work

or by myself, the projects I do, they are going to be there for a while. It’s not like they are going to tear it down tomorrow,” he said. “It makes you feel good about yourself, let alone making other people happy.”

Quicksell joked with Gregory that if she thinks

of another project in the future, she may be giving him a call.

He said he’s OK with that.

“I don’t care. I’m up for it. I’m up for the challenge,”

he said. “I would be more than glad to help her out more. It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet new people and new friends. Gloria is super nice. I couldn’t ask for a nicer lady.”

Amos had a good time with the project, too. He hopes more people chip in and help out when they can.

“The more people you affect with what you do, the more people in turn want to be a part of it,” he said.

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Local businesses contributing to Jackson County Head Start’s playground project

American Legion

Bob Poynter GM

Bryan Bowman Chrysler Dodge Jeep

Cummins Seymour Engine Plant

Lees Ready Mix

Seymour NAPA