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Fund-raising for park renovations continues

Staff Writer

Members of the Exchange Club of Troy are in the midst of a fund raising campaign that will create a first-rate playground for the community.

The club is working to raise money to renovate Murphree Park and hopes the entire community will support its efforts.

Robert Earl Stewart, who is heading up one of the project committees, said the club has been studying the idea for a year and is optimistic about the park renovation.

The fund-raising campaign will continue until May 1 so the playground equipment can be ordered and club members hope parents and grandparents, along with others, will contribute to the project.

Club president Ross Jinright said the "aggressive" campaign will include distributing flyers, placing jugs around town in which people can drop their extra change and members being on WTBF’s morning show over the next few weeks.

Money raised through the club’s annual onion sale will also go toward the project. A 10-pound bag of Vidalia onions is $10 and a 25-pound bag will sell for $20.

While the club will be soliciting contributions through a variety of means, one focus will be through the schools so parents can be made aware of the plans to construct a wall of children’s hand prints.

"We think that’s going to be very successful with the children and their parents," Stewart said.

Troy Parks and Recreation Director Dan Smith, who is also a member of the civic club, said Alexander City ­ which finished a park project two years ago ­ did a similar wall which met with great success.

The Wall of Hands will be made of sections approximately three feet tall and a combined 100 feet long, with colorful hand prints of children. Each hand print will be on a 6×6-inch ceramic tile. The children will have their hands coated with paint, and then the child will leave their own personal hand print on their tile, in any color of the rainbow. The tiles will be fired in a kiln and glazed for a permanent finish. The child’s name will also be written underneath the hand print.

Cost of each hand print is $50. Members of the Exchange Club will be contacting those who express an interest, so they will know when the children can leave their colorful hand prints.

Plans are to set up at Troy Elementary School on a Friday evening and Saturday in May so parents can have their children’s hand prints made.

For those out-of-town, the tiles and instructions can be shipped and then returned. Memorial tiles can also be purchased.

Flyers and information letters have been mailed to many in the community already, and each student at each school will receive a flyer.

"We want everyone’s support," Jinright said, adding the park will be a place for all ages.

Giffen Recreation of Birmingham created plans for the frontier village theme that includes a play area for children age 6 and under as well as equipment for older children.

Although plans are to purchase playground equipment, it will not only be a place for children.

The club wants to create a 10-station fitness station for adults and the city of Troy is working to upgrade the walking trail by adding lighting. Addition of a new parking lot is also in the plans, Smith said.

"We think the addition of this equipment would make Murphree Park one of the finest attractions in the city," Smith said.

The steel and industrial-strength plastic playground equipment and new additions will not be the only things that make the park special. It will be a true community effort because plans are to have the community do it as a labor of both physical and financial means.

"We want this to be a community-built playground," Smith said. "It means a lot more to the community when they feel they have more ownership."

Jinright said the club’s members are "looking forward to revitalizing Murphree Park," Jinright said.

Through the project, the civic club hopes to bring families closer together by giving them a place to spend the afternoon.

The Exchange Club’s major philanthropy is preventing child abuse and in creating a safe place for children to play, they hope to do just that.

Members of the Exchange Club hope enthusiasm for the project spreads throughout the community and gets every segment involved.

Jinright said there are five categories of giving: American, $1,000 and more; Patriot, $500 to $999; Statesman, $250 to $499; Freedom, $100 to $249 and Hand Prints.

Any donations will go through the National Exchange Club Foundation so they can be tax-deductible. Donations can be made out to the Troy Exchange Club and mailed to P.O. Box 267, Troy, Alabama 36081.