SafeHouse getting $20,000 new playground

Published 11:04 am Friday, October 25, 2013

SafeHouse of Shelby County's shelter soon will be getting a large new playground. (Contributed)

SafeHouse of Shelby County’s shelter soon will be getting a large new playground. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When children at SafeHouse of Shelby County’s shelter saw their playground had been taken away a few months ago, it affected them more profoundly than other children.

“They all went into panic mode. The first question they had was ‘What did we do?’” said SafeHouse Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Valencia Albright.

SafeHouse is based in Pelham and provides services for women and children who have been victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The shelter provides a safe place for victims, and often removes them from dangerous situations.

Because the children in SafeHouse’s care are victims of abuse, some blamed themselves for the playground’s removal.

“As victims of abuse, they have that mindset,” Albright said. “We had to reiterate to the kids ‘It’s nothing you did wrong. We did it for your safety and we are working to get you something better.’

“We had to call our child play therapist, who told the kids that removing the playground was just a formality, and we will replace it with something much better,” Albright added.

Before it was removed about three months ago, the shelter’s playground had become heavily worn, and posed a danger to those playing on it, Albright said.

Before the end of the year, the kids’ uncertainties will turn into excitement.

Through an about $20,000 donation from the SouthWest Water Company, the shelter soon will break ground on a new playground area. Once completed, the playground will feature play equipment such as slides and swings, a walking track, a basketball court, a splash pad and exercise equipment.

“When you think about what the residents and kids have gone through to get here, I think it underscores how critical this place is,” said SouthWest Water General Manager Craig Sorensen, noting the donation will not affect SouthWest water rates. “If we can make this a happier place to be along the way, I think we should absolutely do that. We are very happy to be a part of this project.”

SafeHouse Board of Directors Chairwoman Kendall Janorschke said the new playground will improve the emotional well-being of everyone at the shelter.

“This playground will give the children a chance to release energy and do it in a fun and safe way,” Janorschke said.