Rotary Club of Whidbey Westside rallies to refurbish children’s center

Volunteers with Rotary Club of Whidbey Westside offer a helping hand with some much needed yard work at Whidbey Island Children’s Center.

When the little ones return to South Whidbey Children’s Center, they’ll have a new slide and rock wall to play on courtesy of Rotary Club of Whidbey Westside.

A dozen or so volunteers from the service organization are currently working on a project to revitalize an area of the children’s center’s backyard. The space, located in the middle of the backyard play area, was previously seen as a potential safety hazard for kids to play on. As the backyard slopes away from the building, there’s an area that has an abrupt four-foot drop from the upper playground area to the lower play area.

South Whidbey Children’s Center Executive Director Kris Barker said kids need to be closely monitored when playing in the area and are generally kept away to make sure they don’t take a tumble, but that issue is being resolved with a little sweat and elbow grease.

“We always choose six to eight projects a year, so we’ve built a list of potential projects,” said Melissa Cates, Rotary Club of Whidbey Westside president-elect. “This was the project that got the most votes. We asked if they needed any work done and it turns out there was a lot we could do.”

Rotary is removing a fence and a few stumps from the dead space and installing a rock wall for the kids to climb and a slide for them to chute down so the drop can be utilized. Barker says they are also grading the drop so it’s less steep in order to make the area more safe for the little ones.

The club is donating its time and the materials used in the project. Rotary purchased a slide as well as the treated wood to make the climbing wall.

“We have a budget between $400 and $500,” club President Ashley Morrison said. “We have a couple of carpenters out here as well, so that helps keep the costs low for us.”

Cates sends her son to the children’s center, and that connection played a part in this project growing legs. She said she’s a fan of the center, and thought it would be nice to ask if the organization needed any help. Apparently there is much to be done, and she said this could be the first of many tasks.

“Just looking out here, there’s a lot to do,” Cates said. “There may be a future project we can do here.”

Barker said this is a project children’s center staff have wanted to do for the past four years, but haven’t gotten around to for financial reasons. She said there has been a need for a play area better suited for older kids aged 3 to 5 at the center, since many of the play areas are more geared toward younger toddlers.

The project is more than grooming an ugly space in the backyard area. Outdoor play is a huge part of what the center does, Barker said, because it allows for growth of motor skills and a bit of fun for the kids. It’s work that’s been sorely needed.

“We’re just overjoyed and grateful that they would do this,” Barker said. “Any time the community gets involved it’s great for us, the kids and the community itself.”