Our Towns

New Taft Playground Is Kid Tested and Approved

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Volunteers arriving early Monday to lay mulch around the new playground at Taft Elementary in Youngstown were delighted to discover evidence the project was already well received.

“We came up and saw kids footprints from Sunday night,” said the president of the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Bob Hannon.

Hannon related his findings as two dozen people gathered at the site Tuesday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting. The project consists of slides, poles, and other climbing activities, and adds more play space to the existing structure.

“The playground was in disrepair and wasn’t large enough for all the kids,” said Hannon.

So when the Kiwanis Club of Youngstown inquired about a project they could undertake to help kids, he suggested the playground.

Kiwanis donated $10,000 to the project and the United Way covered the remainder, about $7,000.

Still, without Kiwanis “we wouldn’t have been able to get this rolling,” said Hannon.

“We’re concentrating on the city of Youngstown and the youth,” said Jerry Osborne, a Kiwanis member. “Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something that can have a good impact to the community and we think this is ideal for us.”

The gift is also special to the Kiwanis Club because it coincides with its 100th anniversary. The charter was formed one year after Kiwanis International was founded in Detroit Michigan.

“We signed our charter in 1916,” said Chuck Whitman. “I was not there,” he adds while chuckling.

“The playground project is something sizable and we knew it would benefit many students, the whole school and the whole neighborhood,” Whitman said.

It’s part of a larger initiative called the Taft Promise Neighborhood, which seeks to improve education outcomes at the school and revitalize the surrounding community.

Partners in the initiative include more than a dozen businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.

The hope is that by creating pockets of vitality, such as an active playground, the neighborhood will become more attractive to residents and investors.

“Our mission is making a difference with one child at a time,” said Whitman. “This is a perfect fit.”

Pictured: Laurn Weymer is the director of community impact for United Way. Anthony D’Apolito is president of the Youngstown Kiwanis Club.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.