Homeless center gets extreme playground makeover

by Kayla Stai

Special to the Star News

No one shouted, “Move that bus” like they do on the hit ABC TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” However, the emotion that was displayed proved there wasn’t a need to move a bus to make the reveal of a new playground dramatic.

“I was holding one of our youngest guests as we walked around the corner to the backyard,” explained Great River Family Promise Executive Director Jess Hartfiel. “Her eyes got so big, and she started shaking her little fist as though she were a cheerleader.”

Submitted photo A team of staff and students from the Minnesota School of Business built a playground last week.

Submitted photo
A team of staff and students from the Minnesota School of Business built a playground last week.

As the other six children, who are also guests at the homeless day center known as Great River Family Promise, rounded the corner to find a newly constructed playground, they stopped suddenly about 10 feet away and just stared in amazement.

Then, with one confirmation that they could play on it, all seven ran over to the play set and started swinging, sliding and rock climbing. The staff and faculty from Minnesota School of Business in Elk River stood back and watched as their hours of labor and planning all became worthwhile.

“The entire experience was so rewarding,” said Doni Deters, Minnesota School of Business employee. “But the best part was watching the kids and parents enjoy the end product.”

Unlike TV show, where families featured are the homeowners, these families are guests at the Elk River-based homeless day center. Up until now, the center didn’t have any outside activities for the kids to do.

“For kids whose lives are impacted by not having a home and playground of their own, you all gave them a wonderful gift,” said Hartfiel in an email to Minnesota School of Business staff and faculty. “It is a gift that will keep on giving as many children will have the opportunity to enjoy the playground for many seasons to come.”

A work crew from the Minnesota School of Business assembled a play structure for the children of families who come to the day center.

A work crew from the Minnesota School of Business assembled a play structure for the children of families who come to the day center.

Purchasing and building the playground weren’t the only focuses of Minnesota School of Business’s Community Service Day last Friday. A team of staff and faculty also created a container garden complete with vegetables and herbs for the homeless day center’s guests to pick and enjoy. They raked leaves, which revealed flowers that were starting to sprout.

A third group of staff and faculty made a surprise project of building the playground at the homeless day center possible.

This group entertained, educated and pampered all of the homeless day center guests at the school’s campus. They held workshops on fun things to do with kids on a small budget, nutritional foods that don’t cost a fortune, fashionable clothes for working adults and school-aged kids for less, among many others.

Additionally, some staff members engaged in activities like creating tie pillows with the kids, while others pampered the adults with massages.

“One mom said how much she appreciated the massage as she has never had one before,” Hartfiel said.

The day’s events were all part of a designated National Community Service Day held simultaneously across the campuses of Globe University, Minnesota School of Business and Broadview University.

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