It has stood as a hole at Kelleher Park for the past two years — a place where children once played felled by disrepair. Now four local churches are coming together to restore the playground to the Storey Avenue housing development.
“In some way, our timing wasn’t the greatest, but we just wanted to get this going,” said Jeff Bard, a parishioner of the First Religious Society, Unitarian Universalist, in Newburyport. “Our original pie-in-the-sky idea was, why don’t we contact all of the religious organizations around here? And instead of having each small-roots organization trying to do something small, if we all got together, maybe we could do something bigger.”
So the First Religious Society together with Central Congregational Church, Belleville Congregational Church and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church have formed a community-wide effort to raise the money needed for the building and ongoing maintenance to restore Kelleher Park’s playground.
The former playground at the Newburyport Housing Authority development was deemed a high-liability risk two years ago and torn down.
Enter Bard’s fellow parishioner Barbara Garnis, who joined the tenant advisory board at Kelleher Park about six months later. She saw a need for a playground at the park and went to her congregation to discuss raising some money to help out.
“Unanimously, people said that they wanted to do this,” Garnis said.
A meeting was scheduled and 40 parishioners came out to support the initiative.
But an estimated $35,000 was needed to restore the playground and keep it up to code, so Garnis and Bard knew they would have to expand their net.
Rev. Harold Babcock of the Unitarian church reached out to Rev. Christopher Ney at Central Congregational and a meeting was organized in early February to establish the community-wide fund-raising effort.