JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – On beautiful sunny summer days, children staying at the Johnstown Women’s Help Center can now spend time running, jumping, smiling and enjoying each other’s company in a renovated playground thanks to the Voluntary work carried out by members of Greater Johnstown – Somerset Central Labor Council.
Not so long ago the old amenities and landscaping were in disrepair.
There was a twisted sliding board, rotting wood, bare spots in the mulch, rusty swing chains and a damaged sandbox.
The members of the CLC therefore took action.
“Last fall, we held a huge Women’s Help Center coat drive,” said Craig Horner, Board Chair.
“And, in that process, we noticed that the playground needed some good, healthy TLC, and we offered, and they agreed.
“As we talked, we put it together and then we went to our different unions. … They all gave time, stuff, equipment, people.
“The more we got into it, the more we ended up doing.”
Multiple Unions – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 5; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 2047; AFSCME Local 2411; AFSCME District Council 83; United Steelworkers Local 2635; Steelworkers Local 2632 and Service Employees International Union Local 668 – participated.
Students from Bishop McCort Catholic High School and Pennsylvania Highlands Community College contributed.
“Everyone took a shovel or a glove or a rake and did something,” Horner said.
“Everyone fell together.
“We are a well-oiled machine when it comes to union.”
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, Need a Hand Handyman Service and The Long Barn donated supplies.
New equipment, including a sandbox, monkey bar rings, sliding board and picnic table, has been installed.
“I went to my company, North American Hoganas. … I was just asking them for a very small donation, maybe the slide and some swings and all that,” said John Swanson, vice chairman of the board.
“They said, ‘Send us the bill.’ I sent them everything I needed and they ordered everything.
The project was part of CLC’s mission to help the community.
“We don’t just go to work,” Swanson said.
“This is what we do. We help places.
“There are all kinds of union activities. You don’t hear enough about it.
Women’s Help Center Executive Director Roxann Tyger said: “It was really nice to be able to make that connection with the unions.
“They really came to our rescue, really,” Tyger said.
The area is now used for daily activities, as well as special events, such as a July 4 picnic and a planned Labor Day meeting.
“It’s been fantastic,” Tyger said.
“Kids love it. … The children can have some normality, while they are here and they can play.
The center, located on Napoleon Street in the Kernville section of Johnstown, provides free temporary emergency shelter, legal advocacy and case management services for women, most of whom have left abusive homes.
The playground is meant to be a safe and fun environment.
“It’s a completely safe playground for all the women and their children staying here at the shelter,” Tyger said.
“It’s really the only safe outdoor space we have.
“Kids were always going there and playing, but I felt like there wasn’t much to engage them because half the stuff was broken. It was just more like being outside .
Use of the playground is one of the many services available to women and children at home.
“When they’re at the shelter, we really provide them with everything,” Tyger said.
“They get housing, food, clothing, access to a playroom, computers and internet, television, access to a kitchen.”