News: Guard members support community, help build playground
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PHOENIX - A playground at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank in Phoenix was recently constructed by soldiers and airmen of the Arizona National Guard.
The guardsmen undertook the playground project to help promote a healthy lifestyle to those who visit the food bank, and foster a drug-free community.
“It was appropriate for us to step in and help since we are a community-based group who assist with keeping a safe and drug-free environment for the citizens of our community,” said Col. Michael Morgan, commander of the Joint Counter Narco-Terrorism Task Force. “To be a part of an opportunity to help provide a place to enjoy outside when visitors come to the food bank and get a meal is a tremendous feeling of self-gratitude.”
What makes this playground unique is how the planning and designing originated, which involved the creative minds of children.
“The children who come to this shelter designed this playground with the help of a representative from Kaboom,” said Cynthia Bach, supervisor of family evening meal and “Dream Center” at the bank. “There was a vote amongst the children and parents for the top three, and those top three were combined to create the playground being built here today.”
Bach has been a member of St. Vincent de Paul for more than 17 years, and coordinated snacks and meals for the hard-working military members throughout the day.
“We’re just really honored. Without the help of the Guard, there’s no way we would have been able to pull this off,” Bach said. “This is going to benefit the families who come to the family meals we hold here since the park design has some gym equipment for those who come to our shelter to use in order to promote a healthy lifestyle.”
The idea of National Guard members assisting with a community project might seem off-the-wall to some, but for the soldiers and airmen, it is something that is very close to their mission and duty.
“This falls into that citizen-soldier concept, helping others who aren’t as well-off,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jose Salinas, assistant adjutant general for the Joint Staff of the Arizona National Guard. “Its neat to see all the skills the soldiers and airmen are bringing here today – they’re painting, using the circular saw, helping building items, and it’s all going to a good cause.”
The first multigenerational playground of its kind in the state, Guard members partnered with members from Kaboom and Humana, and helped to ensure the operational aspect went smoothly.
“The people from Kaboom came in and helped get the blueprints once they picked which design from the children’s drawings they were going to use, “Bach said. “The soldiers and airmen are just so motivated and working so fast that we are going to have this finished sooner than planned.”
The mission of the Guard members go far and beyond deploying to wars overseas or drilling one weekend per month, Morgan explains.
“It’s one of those things that are kind of personal to me as well, having been in the National Guard for more than 24 years,” Morgan said. “One of the most differentiating factors of being in the Guard is this is your home, and you swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the U.S., when called-upon, but most of the time you’re home and serving your home state to protect the citizens and constitution of your state. The people of our community have needs and they should come to us to help them.”