It's been said it takes a village, and, in Sheffield, the residents are taking those words to heart.
When the Warren County Commissioners opted not to help organize and fund summer playground programs this year, it left a vacuum many communities weren't sure how they would fill.
When the Sheffield Township Supervisors learned about the funding cut at their April 2 meeting, they quickly noted they hadn't budgeted funds to cover the entire cost of their program. The township had approximately $3,000 budgeted to fund its share of costs, but that left a shortfall estimated at nearly $4,000.
Photo by Jacob Perryman
Painting in the park
Sheffield summer playground program participants painted wooden snails at Memorial Park on Friday. Clockwise from left front are Lexi Grubbs, Lindsey Grubbs, Anna McCracken, Sierra Pittock, Angelina Whitcomb, Aleia Whitcomb and Mya Stoddard.
"We're going to have to decide if we're going to have that program or not," Vice Chairman John Labesky noted at the time.
In an effort to bridge the gap, the supervisors sent letters out to the community asking for donations to fund the program. The community responded in a big way.
According to township secretary Kristi Kulka, the community donated approximately $3,800 to ensure children would have a playground program this summer.
According to an e-mail from Kulka, "It has been an overwhelming response!"
"I think it has to do with remembering coming here," Lisa O'Donish, co-director of the program, said of the community's support. "I remember playing here when I was a kid and I think Kristie (Co-Director Kristie Steffan) would agree."
According to Kulka, the nearly $4,000 in cash donations aren't the only support the program has received. She said the Ecumenical Food Pantry in Sheffield is providing lunch at the park every Friday.
According to O'Donish, the Friday lunches are a collaborative effort. She said members of the community are helping out with donations and volunteering time. Members of the Sheffield Lions Club were cooking hot dogs for the children on Friday.
According to O'Donish, the donations have allowed for a busy program offering. She said the participants can take part in craft projects every day at 11 a.m., have lunch from noon to 1 p.m. and then move on to sports, which she said Steffan handles. As for the rest of the day, she said, "We try to more or less do whatever the kids want to do."
"I think it's great for these kids. It gets them out. It gets them motivated," O'Donish said. "It's great just to give them the chance to get out and do things with their friends. It helps get them away from video games and outside."
The program also has some special features planned throughout the summer, such as a pet show that took place the third week of June, a stuffed animal contest and a tie-dying program.
According to Kulka, this year's program has 96 children enrolled.
O'Donish said the program serves an average of between 45 and 55 children every day, with slightly lower turnouts when it's very hot. She cited a figure of "over 100" participants without checking documentation.
"Our program is awesome," Kulka said.
"I work for the school so I know most of these kids," O'Donish said. "I want it to be a safe place for them."