The Friends of the Welch School Playground received a large Valentine's Day present from the City Council last week, and although there was nothing romantic about it, a few of the parents in the audience looked ready to hug and kiss councilors out of gratitude.
The council agreed to transfer $70,000 from Community Preservation funds to the parent's committee to help pay for a new playground at the elementary school, putting a 15-month major fundraising campaign a lot closer to fruition.
In reality, the money nearly pays for the entire project, which is now estimated to cost about $101,000. Since November 2011, the playground committee has been raising funds through donations, small grants, restaurant nights, road races and other activities. Those efforts have brought in $22,000.
The committee said via its Facebook page that it was "thrilled" at the award, a "great Valentine's Day present," and that plans can go ahead now to begin construction in the spring. Further fundraising efforts are planned for the next six months to cover the balance.
And if all goes according to plan, Welch students will finally have an outdoor play structure again just about two years after an old, dilapidated tot lot behind the school was removed because it wasn't safe to play on anymore. The new playground will also be named in memory of beloved Welch teacher Carol Papi, who died last year.
The Community Preservation Committee unanimously voted in January to spend the $70,000 from its open space fund after receiving an application from the playground committee.
The request explained that the play space would not only serve the 370 students at the Welch, but also families in the downtown neighborhood that don't otherwise have a playground within immediate walking distance.
The Welch is the last elementary school in Peabody to build a new playground. In recent years, the Carroll, McCarthy and Burke schools replaced their aging structures with new equipment thanks to major fundraising efforts and some Community Preservation Act money.
For further updates on the project, check out the committee's Facebook page.