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Hundreds volunteer, build new Fairfax Playspace

Playground at Griot Village

Playground at Griot Village

Playground at Griot Village

When the first intergenerational housing development in Ohio was built in 2014, Griot Village’s 40 units became a safe place in the Fairfax neighborhood for adults aged 55 and older to raise the minor children of whom they had custody.
 
Griot Village has been a success. However, there was one thing missing from the complex: A place for play.
 
To that end, last week, 249 volunteers from Morgan Stanley, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation (FRDC), Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), KaBOOM!, and community members from area construction companies, universities and churches joined forces to build a playground at Griot Village.
 
“It was awesome,” says Denise VanLeer, executive director of FRDC. “We always wanted to add a play space and garden area.”
 
The volunteers spent time ahead of the build cutting wood and getting everything ready, says VanLeer. Representatives from Whiting-Turner, Lake Erie Electric, Donley’s Construction and Ozanne Construction prepped the lot by removing tree stumps and old fencing and grading and leveling the lot.
 
The volunteers gathered early Wednesday morning to begin construction on "Playspace," a structure that was designed by the kids in Griot Village.
 
“We had a design day in May,” explains VanLeer. “They drew pictures of what they wanted to see there. Of course, they wanted a lot of stuff we couldn’t put in, but they were so excited.”
 
In addition to the brightly-colored equipment in purple, yellow and lime green, the group also installed picnic tables, planters, soccer goals and a rolling, oversized Connect Four game. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank donated vegetable plants for the garden.
 
The whole project, which is wheelchair accessible, was constructed on four housing lots that were specifically reserved for a play area. “We just knew we wanted to transform these lots,” says VanLeer.
 
The Cleveland Clinic, the Food Bank and FRDC made sure everyone was fed during the process.
 
While the structure had to sit for three days to let the concrete base set, the kids were able to get a preview throughout the planning, prep work and construction. “They were so excited, they could peek in through the fence,” says VanLeer.  
 
The crew was so enthusiastic about the work they were doing that they finished the playground an hour early. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held a few minutes before 2 p.m.
 
“It was such an awesome experience,” says VanLeer. “We got there in the morning and you have this vacant lot and you’re done by 1:30.

Morgan Stanley was the national sponsor for the project, while the Cleveland Clinic was the local supporter.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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