Playground project pays off for Miller Grove elementary students
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Miller Grove Elementary students enjoy the new playground equipment purchased and assembled by PTO members, who were honored during a ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication Saturday evening.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

Oct. 3, 2005 - It took several years and who knows how many cold drinks, garage sale items and countless hours of dedication, preparation and saving, but all of the hard work by the Miller Grove Parent Teacher Organization began to finally take shape just before school started.

Children have enjoyed the new playground equipment, installed just prior to the start of the 2005-2006 school year courtesy the PTO. Parents had the opportunity to experience the new playground Saturday night during a special Family Night held in celebration of the completion of the first of two phases of the PTO Playground Project. The evening included a ribbon cutting and dedication.

The PTO began the project a few years ago to replace old and aging equipment as well as give elementary children a larger area closer to their classrooms where they could better enjoy recess.

All profits from basketball concessions not designated for scholarships were saved in a fund earmarked for the playground equipment. Before last school year, the PTO had saved $7,000 over the course of a few years. In March, the members began intensive fund raising efforts including a garage sale, Valentine candy grams, Mother’s Day cards and a bingo and auction. By June, the PTO had more than doubled their fund, bringing in approximately $10,000, according to PTO Secretary Sonia Earp.

After looking into the project, originally projected to cost $21,000, it was determined the PTO could fund Phase A of the playground project if members were willing to install the new equipment themselves, according to MG  Elementary Principal Linda Bailey.

Bailey also noted that several contributions from individuals and businesses helped sponsor the playground project. Those contributing $500 or more included Cumby Telephone, FEC Electric, Shermco Industries, Miller Grove Farm Supply, Debbie and Brian Lennon, Sonia Earp and family.

The two new large pieces of playground equipment, a monster slide and a rally round were ordered, and work days slated to begin the arduous task of refurbishing the old playground equipment and moving existing pieces from the high school area across campus to the elementary area.

Just before the equipment was slated to arrive, officials were notified that there would be a delay in shipping. As a result of the mix up, the playground manufacturer agree to pay their subcontractor, who generally puts the equipment together for a fee, for one day of work with the PTO members, according to PTO member Mark George.

Finally in early August, the equipment arrived and PTO members toiled two full weekends and after work for a full week, seeing the playground assembled. The last Saturday, just before school began, the PTO members (who included at least three school board members) spent a total of 12 hours in the baking heat making sure Phase A was complete. And the members didn’t just offer up helping hands and strong backs, they brought in their own equipment, tools, and extra supplies, and utilized their specialized training and skills.

Sonia Earp sanded, painted and power washed the old equipment. Rance Purser welded the old and new equipment as needed. Clarence and William Clinton, Clint and Nathan George, Bob Flecker, Lewis Russell dug out all the old equipment using PTO members’ tractors. 

Bill and Cherrie Bessonnett, Gary Billingsley, Brandon Darrow, Brian Lennon and Steve Raley unloaded the new equipment using forklifts donated by C.L. Hall. The Bessonnetts, the Clintons, the Earps, Doug and Melanie Hall, Jace Meece, and A.J. and Heather Miller spread fill. C.L. Hall, Dough and Melanie Hall, and Jim and Tanya Potts provided cement to ground the project.

Lewis Russell set up the swings, Dana Reeves helped set up the three new picnic tables also added to the playground. Teddy and Cody Jennings, Doug and Melanie Hall, and Mark George were instrumental in setting up the slide. Others noted for their contributions installing the new playground equipment, complete with two basketball goals, included Johnny Burns, Calvin Earp, Jeff Emerick, Roy George, Mary McDonald and boys. Some of MG Elementary students will be able to boast in years to come their participation in Phase A construction, as many children helped with the sanding.

The school district was responsible for the fencing around the portion of the play area which fronts the road.

With Phase A complete, PTO members are currently working on Phase B, which will include installation of borders around playground pieces, tether balls, and new pieces to connect the new monster slide and rally round, completion of the fencing, and installation of a brick side walk and bench in honor of long-time special education Venita Wright who died last fall as a result of cancer. Local Boy Scouts are also slated to plant trees to help cool the playground.

Phase B is expected to cost another $10,000 and several fund raisers are already in the works to help pay for it. Bricks for the Venita Wright memorial side walk and sitting area went on sale last month, and can still be purchased through Oct. 7 by calling the school at 903-459-3724. The bricks will be engraved, much like those at Sulphur Springs Library.

Also, coming up in the near future is a garage sale fund raiser on Saturday, Nov. 5. The sale is generally held in Sulphur Springs, last year at The Gathering (now known as Lake Pointe Church), making it accessible to more people. Anyone wishing to donate items for the garage sale or for more information about these fund raisers or the project, contact the school office, 903-459-3724.

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