By Cathy VanRisseghem, Guest Columnist
It’s official — the Taylor Chebet Twitchell Playground is complete and absolutely amazing.
It truly is an amazing playground, but what’s more incredible is how it was built and the heart and soul that went into it.
The first time I heard “Community Build” I wasn’t fully aware of what that truly meant. After the past two months, I have a complete new understanding of what that means. It means that the community as a whole will come forward and make a great thing happen.
This was a huge project that hundreds of people from Little Falls and the surrounding area built from the ground up. We were absolutely thrilled when a former Little Falls resident contacted us to donate funding for a playground in memory of his infant daughter who died at birth. We were then excited to discover another Little Falls resident who was the president of the company we chose to buy the playground equipment from. He donated several wonderful pieces to the project and provided staff to help with the build.
Local contractors came forward in their busy season and donated hours of their time putting in water lines, moving soil and preparing the site for the build. Other contractors dug over 100 holes for the placement of equipment and lifted pieces that were over 300 pounds and put them in place. Local businesses brought out food for the volunteers, water was delivered, refuse service was provided and the volunteers kept coming.
When one group was finished, another group was there to take their place – men, women and children wanted to lend a helping hand in whatever way they could. The equipment was delivered to us free by a local trucking firm and each piece had to be put together – screw by screw. The final day of the “Community Build” involved placing edging around the playground and laying four truckloads of mulch.
This was done for the kids and families of Little Falls and those who come to visit. It was an awesome experience and I am so proud of our community. They continually demonstrate that we can do anything if we set our hearts and minds to it. Little Falls has the greatest people in the world living here.
I would like to thank our donors and volunteers for making this wonderful playground possible. Without their contributions and many volunteer hours, we could not have built one of the greatest playgrounds in Central Minnesota.
In other news, July 8, I was extremely excited to join two new groups: “Quality of Life” and “Economic Growth.” These committees are a result of the “Community Meeting Town 101” that was held May 20.
The “Quality of Life” committee is developing a plan to improve the community’s image, create trails, bike and walking paths and develop ways of utilizing the parks and downtown. “Economic Growth” divided their large group into two smaller groups. Group A will address local organic foods, farmers markets, food co-op and additional workforce training. The group felt that with the new Food Hub locating at the former Crestliner Building (Little Falls Manufacturing Development Center), and the demand for local organic foods nationally, they would explore options and opportunities for Little Falls. Group B is working on tourism initiatives, making the city a destination, and revitalizing the downtown.
They are working with area organizations, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and city of Little Falls to retain and attract small businesses, promote shopping and further enhance our historic downtown.
A third group, “Children, Youth and Future Workforce” has also formed through “Community Meeting Town 101,” and are developing a program for mentorship and entrepreneurs through the Little Falls School system. They are also addressing recreational and fitness needs for youth and adults.
All four committees are comprised of wonderful, dedicated volunteers who have an interest in the areas they are working on, but mostly they have a love and passion for Little Falls and making it a better place to live, work and play. I continually marvel at all the remarkable people in Little Falls who consistently come forward to volunteer their time and energy in all the different areas of need within our community.
It’s because of all these wonderful people that great and mighty things are happening in our community.
Cathy VanRisseghem is the mayor of the city of Little Falls.